Charismatic congregation grows as WA recruits attracted to the radical poverty of St Francis.
By Anthony Barich
Two young West Australian men have been ordained as priests in Canberra in the Missionaries of God’s Love, a Religious Association of Christ’s Faithful.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge ordained David Callaghan, 30, from Doubleview, and Daniel Strickland, 31, from Albany, on December 5 in the MGLs, a charismatic organisation, at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra.
The congregation, founded in 1986 in Canberra by Fr Ken Barker, now has 15 priests, all Australian-born, though other priests in training in Canberra and Melbourne are also from India, the Philippines and New Zealand.
A deacon was also ordained during the same Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral – Joseph Neombasu from West Timor, the first non-Australian ordained to the MGLs, which is an Association of Christ’s Faithful, one step away from being an Order.
Fr Callaghan, who attended Newman College in Churchlands, was studying a science degree at the University of WA, still unsure of exactly what career he would choose, when he stumbled across a book on St Francis in a local church.
He was drawn immediately to the famous saint’s “radical response to God”.
“He gave up everything and he was so filled with joy; Francis had nothing except for God,” Fr Callaghan said.
“I had everything but wasn’t particularly happy, and that’s what woke me up to the idea that God wants more for me, so I gave up everything and followed Him.”
“I kept changing my mind career-wise, and didn’t really know what my focus was going to be.
“Thankfully, God stepped in and gave me focus.”
The simplicity of the MGLs’ lifestyle that reflected the life of St Francis and the level of commitment and honesty that the men in the fraternity showed also drew Fr Strickland to the priesthood.
The pair worked together in the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community’s Youth Mission Team, touring both public and Catholic high schools in 1998, which Fr Callaghan said was ideal to discern one’s vocation in life, with its structured prayer life, and being exposed to “how big the need is to hear about God”.
“We often joke that it’s a conspiracy by God to put us together as were complete opposites, yet we make each other holy,” Fr Callaghan said. “It has been a real privilege to work closely with a good friend through our formation, then to get ordained side by side.”
Both men told The Record last week that their understanding of the priesthood is centred around entering into the mystery of Christ as the head and shepherd of the Church by mirroring Him – as a servant of the Church and God’s people.
Fr Callaghan’s discernment has included sabbaticals out in the wilderness, including a pilgrimage walk from Duncraig, where his parents live, to the Disciples of Jesus’ Summer School of Evangelisation in New Norcia in 2007, just as Bishop Rosendo Salvado, a Benedictine, had done over a century before.
Fr Strickland moved to Perth at 17 to study dentistry at UWA before joining the YMT, before coming into contact with a messenger of Medjugorje, which coincided with him starting to question his priorities.
Although both men studied for nine years for the priesthood, the suddenness of the event “feels a bit surreal,” Fr Strickland said.
“I really mean this, but for me the life of a priest is one of gratitude to God – He’s worked in my life over the last decade to prepare me for this time,” he said.
“The way I understand (the priesthood) is that the priest makes sacramentally present in the Church the reality that Jesus is its head and shepherd.
“The priest is ordained to be of service to the Church and God’s people, and always growing in the capacity to make decisions to lay my own life down in the service to the Church and to others.”
And many more to come as MGLs attract young men to the priesthood in droves
By Anthony Barich
Home-grown Religious congregation the Missionaries of God’s Love has outgrown its Melbourne seminary and is racing the clock to find $1 million to construct a new building to accommodate their burgeoning student numbers by next year.
The MGLs, an Association of Christ’s Faithful (a step away from becoming a Religious Order) founded in 1986 in Canberra by Fr Ken Barker, has 15 Australian-born priests ordained already working as missionaries in the diocese of Novaliches – a poor area of Manila in the Philippines and also have responsibility for parishes and Eucharistic Centres in Canberra, Melbourne and Manila and for an urban Aboriginal ministry in Darwin.
Its 30 seminary students, who come from Australia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, start in Canberra during the pre-novitiate and novitiate stages of their formation before moving to Burwood in Melbourne’s south-east to complete their training.
There are currently 15 in Canberra and 14 in formation in Burwood, and eight more are due to move into the Melbourne seminary house next year, but there is not enough room. Students stay in a rented convent but the congregation needs to build a new house for them to live in.
The goal is to have two seminary buildings housing 14 each – small enough, Fr Barker says, to ensure that the priests-in-training experience the important community of brotherhood during their formation.
Just over $250,000 has been raised since Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne launched the MGL Seminary Building Appeal on August 16 – well short of the mark.
But, in accordance with the congregation’s charism of taking a vow of radical poverty depending entirely on God’s providence, Fr Barker, just turned 60, is confident the goal will be reached.
“The Church is in great need of more holy priests who are formed in a genuine life of holiness with a fire to evangelise,” Fr Barker said.
Fr Barker believes the young men who sense a call to priesthood with the MGLs are “… searching for a place where there is true poverty, a genuine spirit of docility to the Magisterium, a love for Eucharistic adoration and strong commitment to evangelisation”.
The MGLs are geared towards youth evangelisation, helping conduct the Disciples of Jesus’ Summer Schools of Evangelisation in four different locations.
Donations can be sent to the MGL Building Appeal, 6 Boake Place, Garran, ACT, 2605.