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Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Deacon Sone: God’s plan for me was “hidden” in plain sight

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vocation to priesthood - The Catholic Weekly
Deacon Sone with his parents Atonio and Ane Tominiko. Photo: Jazz Chalouhi

Many are familiar with the saying, “God works in mysterious ways.” For me, he was working in plain sight.  

And yet I didn’t realise this until sometime later in my life. Where was his presence? In and amongst my family. 

My family nourished my faith, but it wasn’t all easy sailing. I was originally born in Samoa and adopted by my biological mother to her sister, my aunty Maria. 

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Around the time I was six or seven, Maria passed away and so I was adopted by my grandmother Katarina Tominiko, the matriarch of the family.  

A Catholic convert, she was devoted to her faith, and it was from her I learnt to pray and recite the rosary. She attended Mass with us and catechised us. 

She always told us to defend the faith and to remain ever close to Our Lord and his church—a solid woman of faith.  

Around 2001, I came to Australia to my current parents Ane and Atonio after the death of my biological mum in 2000. 

vocation to priesthood - The Catholic Weekly
Deacon Sone Tominiko and his grandmother Katarina. Photo: Supplied

Their love for their Catholic faith radiated from their servant leadership, leading the Samoan community of Bankstown for almost 30 years.  

I remember questioning the reasons why they spent so much time at singing practice, at youth events and meetings at church. They always gave the same answer: “For the Glory of God!” 

As with many young youths growing up in an increasingly secular culture and society, I was just a Catholic in the pews. Nothing more.  

Coupled with my own wounds of not knowing my real parents, and forgetting my own catechesis, the blame game began. I blamed God for my circumstances.  

And although I grew up in a strong Catholic family, surrounded by faithful people especially in our Samoan community of Bankstown, I didn’t consider the faith as important and did things out of exterior motives rather than from a deep encounter with the merciful Lord. 

Surprisingly, the reason for my resentment towards God would eventually bring me closer to Our Lord and his church, and eventually my own reversion to the faith.  

God would grant me the grace of realising that where I am wounded, I am redeemed.  

It was my family, especially my grandmother and my parents, who continued to instil, plant and cultivate the seeds of faith and the possibility of discerning a vocation to the priesthood.  

The example of my grandmother’s love of Christ and his church, and my parents’ willingness to serve without reward except for his glory were the main factors that helped me take a closer look at my relationship with God.  

vocation to priesthood - The Catholic Weekly
Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

There was no pressure from my family to consider the priesthood. It was my decision alone, which I came to terms with. I eventually chose in early 2016 to begin the process to enter the seminary. 

I was accepted by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in December of 2016, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and entered the Good Shepherd Seminary in 2017. But I was still trying to hide the woundedness of my early abandonment. 

During my formation years in the seminary this became abundantly clear—that God does not abandon those with wounds, rather he restores, he heals, and he transforms.  

Just as our Lord appeared to the apostles, resurrected, alive and bearing his transformed wounds, so too I was valued with great dignity in my own woundedness.  

I am a beloved, wounded son. This understanding of Our Lord sharing in our suffering was something new for me, and I realised God had drawn me a full circle back to him.  

Over these seven years of formation, God had given me many people to strengthen my own vocation, not only my family members but countless parishioners.  

Most importantly, his presence was felt in the fatherly care of Archbishop Fisher who encouraged and cared for us, his spiritual sons.  

Along the way, I found that my wounds were the source of my strength. I am very grateful to His Grace, who in the coming days I will promise to respect and obey as my bishop. 

Written by Deacon Likisone Tominiko who is currently preparing for his ordination on Thursday, 11 July

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