Three make final vows as brothers in fast-growing Australian community
Three young men made life-long vows to religious life as Missionaries of God’s Love this month, as the home-grown congregation continues to flourish.
Brothers Joshua Whicker, 30, Justin Uzabeaga, 30, and Shehan Fernando, 29, made perpetual vows in St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra before their families, friends, parishioners, MGL Sisters, and members of the Disciples of Jesus Community, a lay Catholic Community of which the MGL are members.
The celebration was also livestreamed with Br Shehan’s family joining online from Sri Lanka.
The new MGL brothers come from diverse backgrounds but say they have found their deepest happiness in the charism and mission of the congregation, which was founded by its moderator Fr Ken Barker MGL in Canberra in 1986.
Br Joshua said he appreciated the many young people present, as working with young people is a core part of the MGL charism and mission, “being able to share something of God’s love and His heart for them, especially in times of difficulty and trial” he explained.
Despite a Catholic upbringing and early involvement in youth ministry in the Wollongong diocese, Br Joshua’s path to religious life had still been “imperfect and messy” and included struggles with anxiety, a condition he is well aware is on the rise among young people during the COVID pandemic.
“Trials and difficulties never completely go away, but my experience was transformed once I became aware that God is really with me, intimately, in the midst of them,” he said.
About his life-long promises to live as a religious he said, “I have come to know a God who is good, faithful, and who is love; God has changed my life. How could I not give everything?”
Br Shehan joined the MGLs from his home country of Sri Lanka and said he found his time in formation as one of coming to a greater awareness of his identity.
“In living out our way of prayer, brotherhood and mission for the last seven years, I’ve come to discover my identity in the MGLs and I believe this adventure will continue for the rest of my journey,” Br Shehan said.
He credits his daily prayer for the grace of humility, perseverance and self-knowledge for helping him grow into the person he is today, on the journey to priesthood.
“Taking vows shows my desire to live a life of joyful witness to God’s miracles in his life,” he added.
As a young adult attending weekly charismatic prayer meetings in Sri Lanka, Br Shehan became aware that he wanted to spend his life as a servant for God and for people.
“Someone said to me that the best way to be a servant for God is to be a priest and I burst out laughing I thought that was so funny, but after about six months of pondering on that idea I felt much more comfortable with it.”
He said he is encouraged by Isaiah 43:1, “I have called you by name, you are mine”.
“Even though I have struggles at times and have even thought of leaving the MGLs, I know that God has chosen me, it was not me who chose Him.”
“In living out our way of prayer, brotherhood and mission I’ve come to discover my identity in the MGLs …” Br Shehan Fernando
For Br Justin who grew up in Canberra, it was a privilege to be able to make his vows in his hometown surrounded by his family.
“I was just really excited to be able to enter into the MGL way of life fully” he said, explaining that one of the greatest gifts he’s found in the community is the way he has been encouraged to fully be who he was created to be.
“I look forward to life-long ministry as an MGL, I really love the community and the Disciples of Jesus lay community.”
Fr Ken told the new religious brothers that they will help the Church fulfil its essential mission of proclaiming the Gospel in a troubled world.
Each is “a sign to all of us of a new generation of energetic, zealous, faithful missionaries proclaiming the saving love of God and calling people into the experience of this love, changing hearts and turning them back to God”.
Fr Steve Fletcher MGL, acting rector of the JPII House of Studies in Melbourne where the brothers have been living for the past five years, said they had been a great inspiration.
For more information about the Missionaries of God’s Love see www.mglpriestsandbrothers.org