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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Ordinations a family affair for Deacons Nonie and Alejandro

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Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

There were so many hugs, grins and selfies before the ordinations of Nonie Tiburan and Alejandro Giraldo Alvarez got underway that it felt like a huge extended family gathering—even though only one blood relative was present.

Musicians were tuning their instruments and young parents settling children with Mass booklets and blankets at St Mary’s Cathedral when the two men appeared at the front pews, delighting their friends with opportunities to greet them before the liturgy began.

Family members from their native countries, the Philippines and Colombia, would watch their ordination as deacons via livestream, and will visit Sydney for their ordinations to the priesthood sometime late this year.

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“I really wanted to be here for this, I’m very proud. Actually, I cried, the feeling is so overwhelming,” Ritchel Villavicencio, Deacon Tiburan’s cousin, told The Catholic Weekly—she had flown down from Brisbane with her young daughter for the occasion.

“I feel for his siblings in America who really wanted to come but it’s difficult to get a visa and time away and I’m sure they will be here for his ordination to the priesthood.”

But on this night the members of the Neocatechumenal Way were family enough.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“I feel at peace and grateful to Jesus Christ for his gift, and very consoled by the fact that I wasn’t alone, that I was with all of these supporters, my community,” said Deacon Alejandro following the Mass.

Accompanying families is a crucial aspect of the Way’s missionary work. Judging by the large number of mums, dads, kids, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, some who travelled from Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra to attend, it’s working.

Many stayed on for a post-Mass supper in the hall, including Malia Halaholo, who became emotional when asked what the Neocatechumenal Way meant to her.

“I cannot live without the Neocatechumenal way, I grew up in very difficult circumstances and when I joined the community it has been a family to me,” she said.

“It’s helped with my whole life, and the priests and even the seminaries and deacons are very special to me.

“Our community is for everyone, at any age or circumstances, but especially for families. They keep families together, keep them praying.”

Bishop Daniel Meagher ordained Nonie and Alejandro before them all on 12 April, reminding them in his homily that the Way’s co-founder Kiko Arguello encountered God through real poverty, both materially and spiritually.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“May I encourage you both to hold onto an awareness that we are nothing, we are radically poor, but with God alive in us, God’s overwhelming goodness begins to work in us,” he urged them.

The Mass and ordination ceremony was joyously uplifted by the rousing and deeply moving Spanish-style hymns accompanied by guitars, a violin, cello, bongo drums and tambourine as all present sang, clapped and swayed in unison.

Deaon Tiburan has now been assigned to minister at Our Lady of the Annunciation, Pagewood, and Deacon Giraldo Alvarez to Lourdes Parish, Earlwood.

Redemptoris Mater Seminary, the Way’s dedicated seminary for the Archdiocese of Sydney since 2002, currently has 10 seminarians.

The rector, Fr Eric Skruzny, told The Catholic Weekly he has noticed a rise in young men discerning the priesthood.

Priests support “normal everyday” families in their own unique mission of evangelisation in daily life and as part of the Way’s ministry took 400 young people on pilgrimage to World Youth Day last year, he said.

The community has seen God heal many young people who have been “broken” by sin, he said.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“The Lord has brought about an immense healing with them, and it gives hope to young people who have been caught up in vices of various kinds and think, ‘God can’t call me anymore because I’ve done too much wrong.’

“We say, ‘Look, if it’s God’s call it’s his problem to heal you so you can then be ready for whatever mission he has in mind.”

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