AUSTRALIA’S Jesuits will ordain the religious order’s first ‘Pharisee’, Jesus Nicodemus Lariosa, more than 20 years after he entered the seminary in the Philippines.
Born in the Philippines to “a very Catholic family” who now live in Brisbane, Deacon Lariosa will be ordained a priest for the Society of Jesus on June 16.
He bears the same name as Christ and a Sanhedrin Pharisee who receives a lesson from Jesus in the famous Scripture verses, John 3:16.
“When my parents were a young couple before I was born, they had this evangelical missionary who visited them frequently and spoke to them about John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life’,” Deacon Lariosa said.
“And that quote is from the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John’s gospel.
“So my dad said, ‘When I have a son, I’ll name him Jesus Nicodemus’.”
Deacon Lariosa will make his title as the first Jesuit Pharisee permanent when he is ordained a priest in two weeks.
“I don’t know of any other Jesuit named Nicodemus,” Deacon Lariosa said.
Deacon Lariosa’s journey to the priesthood and the Jesuits has been more than 20 years in the making.
It started in 1995, when as a young boy he witnessed the epic 1995 World Youth Day in the Philippines, which with a turnout of more than 5 million set a world record for the largest gathering of people for a single religious event.
“There was something about Catholic culture that I witnessed and it just drew me to the priesthood,” Deacon Lariosa said.
“It was a child’s understanding of priesthood really.
“I didn’t understand the responsibilities of the priest at that time.
“It just looked like fun to see people at Mass, to lead people in prayer.”
Soon after World Youth Day he entered the minor seminary in Tabaco City, Philippines, aged 12.
He was inspired to join the Jesuit three years later, when he heard the story of a 26-year-old Jesuit brother from the Philippines, Br Richie Ferndando, who died protecting a group of Cambodian students from a grenade.
Deacon Lariosa said Br Fernando’s retreat diary entry inspired him to give his life for Christ.
“He wrote, ‘I wish, when I die, people remember not how great, powerful, or talented I was, but that I served and spoke for the truth, I gave witness to what is right, I was sincere in all my works and actions, in other words, I loved and followed Christ’,” Deacon Lariosa said.
“Those words spoke to me as a 15 year old in the seminary.”
Although Deacon Lariosa (pictured left) had a desire to enter the Jesuits, they were unable to house teenagers, so he continued studying in the diocesan seminary until 2004.
After eight years of study, Deacon Lariosa moved to Brisbane in 2004 to study his Masters of Philosophy at the University of Queensland, but never lost touch with the Jesuits, who at the time had a community in Toowong.
He even worked as a catechist at Brisbane State High School with the late Jesuit Father Gregory Jordan, who was connected with the Catholic Society at UQ.
In 2007 he was eventually accepted into the Jesuits in Sydney, and took his first vows in 2009 before moving to Melbourne for further studies.
Between 2015 and 2017 he studied for the diaconate at Boston College, Massachusetts, before being ordained a deacon by Cardinal Sean O’Malley on September 2, 2017.
He was ordained a deacon alongside Australian Jesuit Province students Deacons Robert Morris and Alan Wong, who will also be ordained priests this month.
Deacon Lariosa said he was inspired by Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s humility, gentleness and authenticity.
“We had dinner with him a couple of nights before the ordination,” Deacon Lariosa said.
“You see him in the media, and he’s very formal, he carries an air of dignity.
“When we had dinner with him, he was so warm and just jovial, telling all these jokes.
“I’d like to be a priest like that, someone who is easy to get along with, and makes people comfortable to be around them.”
He is also looking forward to living out the original nickname for the Jesuits.
“I see myself more as a companion,” Deacon Lariosa said.
“This word is very much in the Jesuit lingo because the first Jesuits, the first companions, they called themselves ‘amigos in el Senor’, which is Spanish for Friends in the Lord.
“I think there’s something about that that resonates with me.
“I’d like to be a friend in the Lord for people, rather than a figure of authority or one who takes leadership from the front, but rather walking with them and encouraging them, offering Christ’s consolation, and hopefully through the sacraments, provide an encounter with God, an encounter with God’s mercy.
“That’s how I see myself.”
Deacon Lariosa will be ordained a priest along with Deacon Wong on June 16 at St Mary’s Church, North Sydney at 11am.