First priests from Redemptoris Mater Seminary celebrate 20 years of service to the Church
Article and photo courtesy of The Record
For Fathers Joe Pelle and John Hogan – the first two priests ordained from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Morley – the intervening 20 years have been ones of revelation and inspiration.
Both men were ordained at St Mary’s Cathedral in July 1997, three years after the Seminary’s inauguration on 14 August 1994, as an institution guided by the charism of the Neocatechumenal Way.
At the time, Fr Pelle was also the first priest to have undertaken all his studies in Western Australia. By contrast, Fr Hogan began his journey to the priesthood in New Jersey, USA, but returned to Perth to complete his studies at Redemptoris Mater Morley (Perth).
Reflecting on what led him to consider a life in the Church, Fr Pelle – who is currently Spiritual Director at the Seminary – said the idea had first emerged through his connection with the NeoCatechumenal Way at Mirrabooka Parish.
“I experienced a deep restlessness in my heart, and I was convinced that there had to be more to life than just accumulating money and possessions,” he said.
“There had to be an answer to suffering, to the meaning of life. This search for an answer led me more and more to Jesus Christ.
“There were signs along the way of God’s mercy, especially my involvement with the NeoCatechumenal Way beginning in 1988. It was a journey of Catholic Adult formation with 30 other people where I began to experience an interior healing.”
After hearing an initial catechesis in 1988, Fr Pelle remained connected to the charism, and said it helped him heal spiritually, and want to share his experience with others.
He added that reaching out to others through the Gospel had been both a challenge and a focus during his 20 years in the priesthood, which included work in the Diocese of Broome and Alotau in Papua New Guinea.
“Pope Francis used an image to describe the Church that I like very much: that ‘the Church is like a field hospital collecting the wounded after the scene of battle’,” Fr Pelle said.
“There are many wounded and lonely people out there in the world living in darkness and are crying out for the light of the Gospel to illuminate their lives. It’s only the Good News that can remove the confusion in their lives and come to know the love of God.”
Fr Pelle added that his role as Spiritual Director at Redemptoris Mater Seminary – which he began in 2015 – had offered him the opportunity to provide support to the young men who were now progressing, as he had, towards the priesthood.
“It’s a challenging role, to guide and help the seminarians not to be discouraged when they experience doubts, problems and crises along the way,” he said.
For Fr Hogan, becoming connected with the NeoCatechumenal Way had also been an illuminating experience.
“It started back when I was working as a public servant – I was 60 years old and felt that I’d wasted my life,” he said.
“Representatives from the NeoCatechumenal Way came to Canberra, where I was based: they gave a talk on Abraham, and inspired me to change my life.
“They asked if I’d considered the priesthood, and although I’d never thought about it before, I thought about it and said yes.”
Fr Hogan said that since that time, he had trusted God to lead him along the right path, including during his studies to become a priest.
“I studied for four years in the US, but went back to Australia, to Perth to complete my formation and to be ordained,” Fr Hogan said.
Upon being ordained at the age of 64, Fr Hogan’s first role was at Whitford Parish, Our Lady of the Mission Church, where he assisted then-Parish Priest, Fr Geoff Aldous.
“After that I moved to the Parish of Goomalling where I was Parish Priest, then I was sent as a missionary to the eastern states,” he said.
“Five years ago, I started at the Brisbane Archdiocese, at Loganholme Parish, St Matthew’s Church.
“I live in the presbytery and help the Parish Priest, Fr Rodrigo Tomala.
“Most nights I assist the NeoCatechumenal Way community of Wynnum Parish in their liturgy and celebrations.”