REMEMBERING a “great” role model, two new priests offered their final vows in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, on December 8.
Fathers Bryan Roe and John Echewodo were ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
With “standing room only”, a significant number of clergy, religious and parishioners from their connections in Sandgate-Brighton, Ipswich, Jubilee and Surfers Paradise parishes attended.
Fr Roe’s parents Marie and Bill Roe, siblings and extended family members and friends also gathered.
In his homily Archbishop Bathersby spoke of God’s wisdom in the Old Testament.
“God spoke … of doing a ‘new thing’,” he said.
“In Isaiah 43:19 God tells us to ‘watch for the new things I am going to do’.”
Then Archbishop Bathersby connected the Old Testament reading to the death of Brisbane archdiocese’s Fr Tom Boland the previous evening.
“Before he did (die) he summed up his entire life by saying to the chaplain sitting beside his bed, ‘I feel like a school boy getting ready to go on holidays’,” the archbishop said.
“It was typical of his genius that he could brilliantly sum up his life in a simple sentence.
“I’m sure he well knew of his God constantly doing a ‘new thing’ for our world and realising that one of those things was God calling him onto heaven.”
Archbishop Bathersby’s homily connected, too, with what he said were the “superb scriptures” of the day’s feast – the First Reading proclaimed by cathedral parish staff member Carmel Devery and the second by Surfers Paradise parish pastoral associate Sue Thomas.
“The reading from the prophet Isaiah (61:1-3) emphasises our need to care for the poor,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“(This) must never be forgotten especially if we wish to be priests in the footsteps of Jesus.
“The letter of St Paul to the Ephesians (1:3-6,11-12) emphasises we are all called by God to a particular role.
“Priesthood is most certainly one of those roles desired by God and absolutely necessary for the Church.”
Deacon Nigel Sequeira had proclaimed the Gospel from St Luke (1:26-38).
“And finally (in the Gospel account) Mary, the mother of Jesus responds to God’s call not as a priest but as a mother chosen to be the protector and educator of Jesus, her son,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
He described the Virgin Mary as a “humble person … able to share the Good News with all people who seek to understand her son” adding, “Please God, Bryan and John will be priests who … pray to her always.”
Congratulating Fathers Roe and Echewodo, Archbishop Bathersby acknowledged the commitment of their parents, teachers and past and present Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, Banyo, rectors Fr Michael McCarthy and Monsignor Tony Randazzo, respectively.
He also mentioned the support of clergy and seminary staff, saying together they “brought the dream” of priesthood to “a happy conclusion”.
Archbishop Bathersby said the Archdiocese of Brisbane would “be in serious spiritual trouble” without the generosity of the Bishop of Umuahia, Nigeria, “who so generously shared his students”, of whom Fr Echewodo was the first to arrive, in 2007.
“Bryan and John are typical of the multicultural mix of the Church today,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“Armed with wisdom and scripture they will … go forth to engage the world (as) part of a ‘new thing’ God has done.”
Archbishop Bathersby’s final words were of hope and congratulations.
“God is doing a new thing for us tonight in the hearts of these priests,” he said.
“My dear new priests, let me congratulate you tonight, promise you of our prayerful support and wish you the fulfilment of God’s call that began earlier, is realised tonight and will last forever.
“May Mary be your inspiration (and) finally if you want to base your priestly life on a great priest, don’t ever forget Fr Tom Boland … (who) I’m sure is praying for you tonight. May he rest in peace.”
Following the Mass the newly ordained priests blessed many of those gathered.
Some present at the ordination and others unable to attend joined Fr Roe for his Mass of Thanksgiving at The Church of the Real Presence, Brighton, on December 11.
Fr Roe’s family are parishioners in Sandgate-Brighton parish.
Acknowledging Fr Roe’s placement in St Stephen’s Cathedral parish, a Mass of Thanksgiving was also celebrated in St Patrick’s Church, Fotitude Valley, on December 13.
Admitting some nerves some years ago during formation at the thought of preaching, Fr Roe displayed a confident yet humble disposition during both Masses.
He will continue as associate pastor at St Stephen’s throughout 2011.
Fr Echewodo’s Mass of Thanksgiving was offered at Sacred Heart Church, Clear Island Waters, on the Gold Coast, on December 12.
Throughout the Mass he showed his customary joyful style, smiling and thanking the community for their ongoing support, given all of his family are in Nigeria.
The community also gathered for lunch to continue their celebrations and Fr Echewodo will remain with them in 2011.
“I’m so happy,” Fr Echewodo said. “Being a priest has been a dream of mine for such a long time.”