The coronavirus pandemic has seen two Kiwis preparing for priesthood with the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter overseas return to New Zealand for a time.
Deacon Roger Gilbride, FSSP, and Brendan Boyce, FSSP, arrived back in this country on the same day — April 2 — having travelled from England and the United States respectively. Deacon Gilbride had been on diaconal placement at a parish in Warrington in England and Mr Boyce had been studying at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska in the US.
Both immediately went into isolation on arriving here — Deacon Gilbride at his parent’s home in Murray’s Bay in Auckland and Mr Boyce at a hall next to St Anne’s Chapel in Te Atatu, also in Auckland.
According to their website, The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) is a clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, canonically erected by Pope St John Paul II in 1988. Their priests serve in apostolates across the world, with the faithful celebration of the traditional Mass in Latin and sacraments (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) at the centre of their charism.
Deacon Gilbride was initially scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in Sydney on June 20, but that date has been shifted to August 8. Mr Boyce is also scheduled to be ordained deacon on the same day in Sydney, but he said even the August date is “not looking terribly likely now”.
When the nation moved to alert level 3, Deacon Gilbride “shifted bubbles”, and joined Fr Antony Sumich, FSSP, and Mr Boyce at Te Atatu.
While in New Zealand, both have been busy continuing their preparation for their respective future ministries.
“I have been learning how to offer the Mass, learning moral theology, confession practice — just a lot of practical things that a priest needs to know,” Deacon Gilbride said.
He admits to a feeling a tinge of disappointment that his ordination date was postponed.
“So on the one hand it is a bit disappointing, but it is nice to have a bit more time to prepare, because you always kind of think — I need more time to prepare, particularly for moral theology.”
While he is in New Zealand, Deacon Gibride is preaching “every second week” and has also been asked by Fr Sumich to take an adult convert for catechism classes. He expects to do the latter for a few weeks.
Mr Boyce has been continuing his seminary study work while in New Zealand. Seminary authorities encouraged seminarians where he was studying to go home after the pandemic situation worsened.
Mr Boyce said on May 30 that, when he left, he “still had three classes to complete, an essay to write, an exam to take home to do, and an exam to sit, so I still had a lot of work. I only just finished that essay a few days ago”.
“I have been helping out Fr Sumich around the place. It has been busy enough, that’s for sure.”
He started a month’s holiday on May 31 and planned to visit his parents in Cambridge, his brother, Fr Gerard Boyce, in Whakatane, and hoped to be able to see his sister in Christchurch.
“Then it is back up and do work for Fr Sumich and around the apostolate to help, and hope and pray that we get across to Australia, or that some other arrangement can be made for us so that Roger can be ordained to the priesthood and myself to the diaconate,” he said.
“We just put it in God’s hands because there is nothing wrong with waiting. If he wants us to wait, we wait. We just do what we have to do.”
At a Mass (celebrated in the extraordinary form) of the vigil of Pentecost at St Anne’s Chapel on May 30, Fr Sumich noted that, 50 days ago when he celebrated Mass for the Easter vigil, he stood in the same place looking out at a camera (livestreaming the liturgy), with no one in the church apart from four servers — who were in his “bubble” at the time.
He said preaching to a church with people in it — the day after the Government limit on people allowed at gatherings was raised to 100 — “makes it feel so much more like it ought to be”.
Tyla Hockey, 15, whose baptism had been scheduled for the Easter vigil but could not take place then, received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Communion at the Mass on May 30.