ONE man’s “yes” to God rallied a community from Mount Isa and Ingham to Townsville City – a hope for the future of Church in regional Queensland.
Townsville Bishop Tim Harris ordained Emene Kelemete a deacon in front of more than 400 people at Holy Trinity Church, Mundingburra, on Friday, February 22.
Some present on the night travelled from Mount Isa parish, where Deacon Kelemete served for a time, and Ingham parish, where he had been on placement up until his ordination.
“It’s hard to describe it,” Deacon Kelemete said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling one gets when everyone comes together and this is what everything was leading up to.
“As I faced the people, it just reminded me why I wanted to do it.”
Deacon Kelemete has been appointed to Ingham parish for his diaconate ministry.
There, he hopes to learn as much as he can, stressing the importance of learning from elders and gathering all the wisdom he can.
Bishop Harris said the timing couldn’t be better.
“It was a night of great joy because we haven’t had an ordination in Townsville for a long time,” he said.
This shortage of priests, Bishop Harris said, meant the diocese often had to rely on international priests or loans from other dioceses.
Originally from the Tokelau Islands, off the coast of New Zealand, Deacon Kelemete has been a local for many years in Townsville.
“He’s emerged from the Tokelau community and he’s been in the system of formation in the seminary for some years, and we’ve now ordained him,” Bishop Harris said.
“It’s a great news for the diocese.”
Deacon Kelemete said seeing people’s desires to get closer to God inspired him.
“It makes me really think there’s this huge need for priests in their lives,” he said.
Bishop Harris said Deacon Kelemete’s parents, Joseph and Peteli, were proud of their son.
But it was on the Sunday following the ordination that Bishop Harris glimpsed the weight of Deacon Kelemete’s decision to his family.
At a gathering after his first public appearance as deacon, Deacon Kelemete’s father gave an emotional speech.
During the speech, Mr Kelemete said his son no longer belonged to him – he belonged to the diocese.
“And as he was saying that, (Mr Kelemete) had tears in his eyes, but he had the sense that Emene now belonged, not to his mum and dad, not to his immediate family, but the family of the diocese,” Bishop Harris said.
“It was deeply moving and quite emotional as he handed over his son for the service of the Church.”
But, the Church was not without its trials, especially in the current media climate.
“It’s almost counter-cultural to offer yourself forward to become a priest today,” Bishop Harris said. “But (Deacon Kelemete) is old enough and wise enough to know that.
“Even in the midst of all the challenges the Church is facing in the present time, Emene’s willing to trust God that this is what God’s intending for him and then to go with the flow – to let go and let God.”
Bishop Harris said Deacon Kelemete had a “great pastoral zeal”.
“He really is a natural in terms of relating to people and he gets on their level, he’s very easy with people,” he said.
“He’s got a lovely personality and a lovely way about him.
“He’s someone who can relate to people very well and that’s what we need in the diocese, and that’s what we need in the Church today.”