by MICHAEL OTTO
Eight new first year seminarians at Holy Cross Seminary make for a
diverse group, reflecting the increasingly multi-cultural nature of the Church in New Zealand.
But although there might be seven different ethnicities represented, most of them are young, aged in their twenties.
Fadi Boless, 21, was born in Iraq, but his family migrated
to Syria in 2000. In 2012, his family came to New Zealand as
refugees, joining his sister, who had married here.
Mr Boless hopes to be ordained a priest in the Chaldean Catholic rite, but he will also be able to celebrate the Latin rite
normally used in New Zealand.
Last year, he was ordained as a sub-deacon by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, when he visited New Zealand.
Mr Boless first felt a calling to priesthood when he was in
Syria, and the kindness his family received there was a factor.
“I felt a call from God, because of other people. They dealt with us like brothers, even though we were strangers. We have been helped by many churches, even Muslim people,” he said.
Settling with his family in south Auckland, he was required to further his English language studies before entering the seminary.
When his training at Holy Cross is finished, he will do two more
years of study in Australia or Iraq to familiarise himself with the Aramaic dialect used in the Chaldean Church.
Another seminarian born overseas is Jacob Panikkamannil,
37, who is studying for Auckland diocese.
Mr Panikkamannil is of the Syro- Malankara rite, which is an eastern
Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See.
Coming to New Zealand from India in 2006 with a degree in botany, Mr Panikkamannil did a graduate diploma in nursing at the University of Auckland and went on to work as a nurse at Auckland Hospital and Starship Children’s Health. He also contributed to the
Mr Panikkamannil had been thinking about priesthood for some
time, but a pilgrimage to Europe last year helped deepen his calling.
Although ordination is a “long way away”, he said that if he does his best and God does his best, “we will go from there”.
Two of the first year seminarians come from Vietnam, although they hope to be ordained for different dioceses in New Zealand.
Tang Phan, 28, graduated in information technology from Da Nang City University in Vietnam.
But he was not able to enter the seminary in his own country.
After working as a lecturer and then staying with and helping his uncle who was a priest, Mr Phan jumped at the chance to study for the priesthood in New Zealand, despite knowing little about
But Mr Phan did know that four other Vietnamese students had come to
this country to study for the priesthood.
Since arriving in New Zealand, Mr Phan has stayed in St Francis of Assisi parish in Christchurch and has studied English.
He had always wanted to be a teacher, but his uncle, the priest, once preached in a homily that Jesus Christ is the best teacher, he said.
Mr Phan hopes to be a good seminarian and a good future priest.
Trung Nguyen, 26, came to New Zealand after completing a degree in philosophy in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
He studied English in Palmerston North for 15 months before entering the seminary.
“Different people have different ways of looking for happiness in their lives. For me, I feel peaceful and happy when I have been in a church,” Mr Nguyen said.
His thoughts of a vocation grew after staying with a priest in Vietnam before going to university.
Mr Nguyen hopes to share the peace and happiness he gets from his faith with others.
Also studying for Palmerston North diocese is Simone Masanga, 22, who was raised in Tonga.
After doing vocations retreats at school, Mr Masanga wanted to enter the Marist seminary, but was told he was too young at that stage.
So he worked at the international airport in Tonga, in the aviation security service.
But after talking about a vocation with a priest in Hastings during a short visit to see his parents in New Zealand, Mr Masanga followed up by contacting Bishop Charles Drennan, and the two kept
in touch. When Mr Masanga moved to New Zealand, he studied English in Napier for six months.
He hopes to work hard and pray hard during his time at the seminary.
From Auckland diocese is Dominic Alcock, 23, who hails from Glendowie, and who worked as a baker.
When he was aged 12 or 13, Mr Alcock told his father he wanted to be a priest.
“Obviously, I was much too young, and I put it off for a long time,” Mr Alcock said.
“Then a year or so ago my great-aunt died. From that I grew in more of a personal relationship with God,” he said.
From this, the desire to become a priest was rekindled.
Mr Alcock hopes to stay true to his vocation, “whatever God has planned for me”.
Also from Auckland diocese is Rewi Pene, 29, who comes from the Whangaroa Harbour region in the Far North.
Before coming to the seminary, Mr Pene studied classical music, choral music and opera and worked as a classical musician.
He also taught itinerant music in schools and helped parishes with liturgical music.
He said a lot of things prompted him to come to the seminary, but primary for him was the work he had done with his own people in the
“And a lot of the people in my community are poor. So out of their struggle I felt a call to the priesthood.”
A third seminarian from Auckland diocese is Thomas Park, 26, who is Korean. Mr Park studied social work and commerce at Massey
University on the North Shore before entering the seminary.
Mr Park said he has felt a strong calling to a vocation for
the last six years.
“I hope for success in all my studies here, and then to
be ordained a priest,” he said.