On the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 19, priests of the archdiocese held a liturgy to launch the Year of the Priest.
Archbishop John Dew invited Frs Michael Stieller of Waiwhetu, Michael O’Dea of Seatoun and Mateo Kivalu of Newlands to share something of what priesthood means for them.
Fr Stieller, who celebrates his golden jubilee this month, spoke of a priest who impressed him when he was starting high school. Fr Jimmy Forrestal was a fairly gruff man but the face of Christ to all he met. The young Michael, when this 70-year-old priest asked him what he was going to be when he grew up, answered that he wanted to be a priest. ‘Why?’ Fr Forrestal asked. Thinking at the time that all priests went to heaven, the young Michael replied, ‘Because I want to go to heaven!’
‘Well then,’ the priest said, ‘not only will you go to heaven but you’ll take a lot of others along with you.’
Fr Michael O’Dea who, as well as running St Anthony’s, Seatoun, heads the Tribunal, told the gathering of mainly priests that he was impressed with the learning and humility of his teachers when he studied canon law in Rome.
One of his favourite pieces of scripture was that God sent his only son and ‘our task (in response) is to be loved’.
Fr Mateo Kivalu wanted badly to join the Police force in his home country of Tonga.
One of seven children, he spent some time with his grandmother on the island of Niuatoputapu. She would take him to the Third Order of Mary meetings in the early morning where he would continue his sleeping.
Fr Mateo entered the Pacific Regional Seminary, Suva, Fiji, as a Marist student in 1991. In 1996, during his sixth year of studies, Mateo was told that he could not be a Marist priest. So he returned to Tonga and worked at Kinikinilau supermarket for a year.
He then asked Bishop Foliaki if he could return to the seminary. There he finished his academic studies and priestly formation in 2000. After ordination on December 8, 2001, Fr Mateo was appointed assistant priest of Vava’u parish. In 2003 he became parish priest of Niuatoputapu. Since 2004, he has been on loan to the Archdiocese of Wellington.
Fr Mateo finds Matthew’s mustard seed story inspiring (13: 31-32) and is also impressed by Paul’s letter to the Philippians, ‘I thank my God each time I think of you; and when I pray for all of you, I pray with joy…’ God plants the seed of faith in the soil of our being. ‘It is our turn to let it grow.’
Archbishop John spoke of Pope Benedict’s wish for priests to model themselves on the curé d’Ars, St Jean Vianney, the great good shepherd. A two-metre tall icon would spend about two months in each of the six dioceses, he said.
Cathedral parishioners then turned on a supper for the priests after Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.