Perth mission on struggle street

22 Apr 2009

By The Record

HOW do you feed twelve personnel and run a mission looking after poor children with limited intake of money?


By Robert Hiini

HOW do you feed twelve personnel and run a mission looking after poor children with limited intake of money?
That’s a question Fr Douglas Rowe SFP, ordained 41 years ago, has to ask himself every day and his definite and confident answer is “God’s providence.”
Like other charitable organisations, the religious order he established in 1999 after being a Jesuit priest for almost 30 years, is facing a downturn in donations as people tighten their belts in the wake of the financial downturn. Somehow, Fr Rowe says, their work goes on unabated but it’s not easy.
“We depend on the good will of people and people are good,” he says. “We don’t go hungry like the people in Zimbabwe or Darfur and we share with others but it is difficult.”
The mission his Patrist congregation established in the Phillipines now has a staff of three Patrist sisters and one novice, feeding 40 children every week and supporting them in their education. In addition they have also adopted two orphan girls. The order also has two seminarians studying at St Charles Seminary in Guildford, as a result of the generous gesture of Archbishop Barry Hickey.
They have vocations coming from Nigeria, Kenya, Philippines and even Australia.
Fr Rowe first met the Archbishop while visiting relatives in WA, a month after Fr Barry Hickey was ordained bishop of Geraldton in June 1984. In 2005, Fr Rowe came to Perth at the Archbishop’s invitation to make Western Australia his permanent base. The Congregation is now officially under Archbishop Hickey and Fr Rowe belongs to the Perth Archdiocese.
He acted as Chaplain to All Saints Chapel in Perth’s CBD while awaiting visa approval for the order’s Religious sisters – a tiring process, he says, that took a long 15 months. His core work over the past three decades has been as a Spiritual director and Retreat master having developed numerous spiritual formation programs that he continues to run in Perth as well as his Tuesday Night Bible study operating in St Joachim’s Parish Hall, Victoria Park for the past four years.
He has given Retreats and spiritual experiences in Australia (Parramatta), America, Canada, Singapore, Kenya, Uganda, India, Korea, Hong Kong, Mauritius and the Philippines, as well as having taught at the Acts 2 College of Mission and Evangelisation in Osborne Park last year. The year 2008 also brought a potentially fateful meeting with Kenyan Bishop Salesius Mugambi of the isolated Meru Diocese who had come to Perth for World Youth Day celebrations.
As a Jesuit missionary in Kenya for two years in the late 1970s, Fr Rowe felt moved to try to mission again to struggling people in the bishop’s diocese.
The centre that the Patrist Sisters will occupy there is still incomplete with only its basic walls and roof in place. Fr Rowe needs to find another $20,000-30,000 to complete it and begin to look after the area’s destitute children. His mission in Perth is trying to impart a key message he says he only really understood nearly 12 years into his priesthood: that God is a Father who wants His children to have an intimate relationship with Him. Experiencing God as a personal Father and living as good sons / daughters is the core of their spirituality.  “We want the whole world to know and love God our Father and have a deep intimate relationship with Him,” Fr Rowe says.
His Awakenings retreat in the Patrists’ Midland house is on April 26 – a six-hour introduction to the Spirituality of Jesus, and says he would love to do more for Perth.
“We want to bring this Spirituality to the ordinary person everywhere; to show them the beauty of our Catholic Faith.”
For more information about Patrist retreats or to support their work ring 9250 5395 or visit