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God’s on Fr Nigel’s side

Fr Nigel Sequeira

Fr Nigel Sequeira: “My journey has been different. And I guess you can’t plan a journey like that when it happens, but you’re happy to part of that journey.”

SPIN a globe in your hands and stop on a random point.

Any continent. Any hemisphere.

There is a good chance you will stop near a place that Fr Nigel Sequeira has called home.

It may be Tanzania, on Africa’s eastern central coast, where Fr Nigel was born.

Perhaps it’s India, where he attended boarding school, or Ireland, where he worked in a drug rehabilitation centre.

There’s his long stint in Kuwait, where he was a news cameraman during the first Gulf War.

And then there’s the South Burnett towns of Kingaroy and Nanango, where this real man of the world is relishing his time as parish priest.

Fr Nigel has travelled a long way to become a priest in the archdiocese of Brisbane, and it’s a journey that hinged on one Lenten season.

Stopping with his beloved late mother Dolly in her home of Kuwait, Fr Nigel set aside Lent to decide if he would go to the seminary or pursue a family life.

“I decided on the priesthood within two weeks,” Fr Nigel said.

“I don’t think it is a call to priesthood, I think it is a call to love God. God gives you a choice. I felt the sense of God saying ‘whatever you do, you will be a good priest, a good husband and father, you have to make the choice, because I love you and I know that you love me’.

“So I went down this path of priesthood.”

But he couldn’t do that in the Muslim country of Kuwait, instead seeking a bishop to sponsor his study in one of the many parts of the Catholic world.

Fr Nigel wrote far and wide.

“I said that the first place that replied to me would be the one I went to. And I said I would go to the ends of the Earth if I had to,” he said.

“And, strangely enough, if you are living in the Middle East, Australia is the end of the earth.”

The Brisbane archdiocese was the first to reply to Fr Nigel, who accepted the invitation and arrived in February 2005 to investigate this new place.

“My prayer was ‘open the doors if you want me to walk through’. Everything just opened up. I am right where I should be and where God wants me,” Fr Nigel said.

He’s at St Mary’s at Kingaroy, a church with the warmth so common to Queensland’s regional towns.

He’s not far from Nanango’s “Little Cathedral in the bush” – the nickname given to the stunning Our Lady Help of Christians Church tucked back from the town’s main street.

Fr Nigel also visits Boulia, Cumbia, Yarraman and Blackbutt.

But he remains a man from all parts of the world, especially that most fascinating area in which the first Gulf War played out.

Fr Nigel’s journey into the media came by chance when he met a news crew from NBC. 

He knew Kuwait and he knew the language and that meant he was an invaluable companion for a foreign news crew trying to tell stories in a new country.

Soon Fr Nigel was a fulltime cameraman, spending seven years covering news in Kuwait and Iraq.

“I was covering war. I would be with soldiers and I was on an adventure. I was young and there are times in your life when you feel you are invincible – the dangerous situations are not dangerous enough,” he said.

“While I am glad I did that, I am grateful to God that I came out of it alive.  It has shaped me and made me who I am now.”

There are painful moments from Fr Nigel’s many years watching war.

He talks about the time he was at a refugee camp on the Iraq/Kuwait border watching those devastated people fleeing for a new life.

He remembers a mother and baby desperate for food.

“The baby was so weak that it couldn’t cry. All you could see was the bone and a thin layer of skin,” he said.

“I looked at that image and I said this was the image we wanted because it would go all around the world and it would move the hearts of people.

“But at the same time I thought I was thinking like a professional about all of the TV screens that would show that image but I was not moved by the suffering of that mother because I didn’t do anything to help her.

“For me, the reality of the situation was that I didn’t take the step to help someone. That played a lot on my mind and that really touched me.”

Kingaroy and Nanango are the latest steps on this journey and the University of Cyprus graduate is enjoying his first posting as parish priest.

He’s a regular at trivia nights in the local area, he’s played soccer for a Kingaroy team, he plays some basketball now and then and he also learns guitar.

‘’Most of the people around here work on farms and we’ve got people in schools and other areas. It is a really typical country parish,” he said.

“You get the friendliness of country people, a great sense of community. It’s simply wonderful. We have six Mass centres so a lot of driving is involved.

“My journey has been different. And I guess you can’t plan a journey like that when it happens, but you’re happy to part of that journey.

“It is a wonderful journey and I have learnt a lot along the way, I have found out a lot about myself.

“Any journey is good if you know you’ve got God by your side.”

By Michael Crutcher

Written by: Staff writers
Catholic Church Insurance

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