VOCATION SUNDAY SPECIAL REPORT: Deacon Errol: Pray for me, as I will pray for you

18 Apr 2024

By Contributor

By Joseph Younes

The Ordination to the Priesthood of Deacon Errol Lobo and Deacon Jason Yeap will take place at 7:00PM on 19 April 2024 at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth.

Deacon Errol spoke to The Record about his upcoming ordination, reflecting on his devout Catholic family, sharing his devotion to St Paul and saying he is ready to serve the marginalised.

Deacon Errol Lobo Ordination
Deacon Errol professes his obedience to Archbishop Costelloe during his Ordination to the Diaconate, 17 February 2023. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

The Record:Why did you decide to become a priest? What called you to the priesthood?

Deacon Errol Lobo: I think what’s led me to this stage is my conviction, which has grown stronger over time, that this is what the Lord is asking of me. I didn’t grow up thinking about the priesthood or seeing myself as a priest.

I come from a closely-knit and devoutly Catholic family, and knew and admired many priests, but I suppose I just imagined a different future for myself, as I think everyone else who knew me did for me.

I was around 19 years old when I first sensed that God was leading me in this direction. I trusted then that if the call was indeed from God, it would grow stronger and he would see it through; otherwise, I would know that it wasn’t.

At the end of my university studies, I knew that seminary had to be the next step. I entered St Charles Seminary at the age of 23, and almost eight years later, we’re here.

The Record: How do you feel?

EL: Above all, I now feel a sense of peace, but also profound gratitude. I think I come to the ordination liturgy after years of discernment and reflection, as well as just over two years of pastoral ministry, both as a seminarian and a deacon.

So, it’s the peace born of the conviction that this is where the Lord has brought me, and as St John Henry Newman once prayed, “So far thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.”

I also come with deep feelings of gratitude. I know I come here carried by the prayers, the support, the encouragement, and the labours of so many others, especially my family, and my parish and school communities. I come to the ordination with a tremendous amount of debt owed to them.

Then seminarian, Errol Lobo with Gosnells Parish Priest Fr Phillip Perreau and Kalgoorlie Assistant Priest Fr Konrad Gagatek at the St Charles Seminary 80th Anniversary Sundowner, 4 November 2022. Photo: Simon Hall.

The Record: Are there any saints you have a devotion to?

EL: People who know me would know that I have a tremendous fondness for St Paul. I am confident of his friendship and his intercession, and I have certainly tried to model my own diaconal ministry on his life and ministry, and hope to do the same for my priestly ministry. I also wrote my masters’ thesis in Pauline studies, and picked as the image on the commemorative card of my ordination the Conversion of Saul by Guido Reni. You’ll see on the other side of the card a line from a hymn by Charles Wesley—‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; For, O my God, it found out me—which I think is a perfect summation of Paul’s life (and mine).

And I consider it a sign from him that the First Reading on the Mass of the weekday of the Ordination (April 19) turns out to be the account of the conversion of St Paul from the Acts of the Apostles. None of us could have planned that last detail.

There are many others—St John Henry Newman, whom I mentioned before, but also St Francis Xavier, St Oscar Romero and St Anthony of Padua come to mind.

The Record: What role does Mother Mary play in your life?

EL: An immensely significant one. My family would pray daily—and still does—the Angelus and Rosary, and I remember Mum would sing hymns, so often Marian, to me as a little child. I was also born on December 12, the day the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I’ve always had a special devotion to Our Lady. I hope it can be described as unassuming perhaps, but trusting and steadfast nonetheless.

The Record: What do your family think of your ordination to the diaconate?

EL: It will undoubtedly be a joyful day for all of us. I consider myself tremendously blessed to not only have wonderful models of Christian faith and love in my Mum, Dad, and sister, but also to have always known of their support, their prayers, and their encouragement. Their love means the world to me.

I think they are also incredibly happy about the fact that I have found myself in parishes full of faith, vitality, and generosity these last couple of years.

Then seminarian Errol Lobo studying in the library at St Charles Seminary. Photo: Archdiocese of Perth.

The Record: Can you describe seminary life?

EL: What comes to mind first is that no year in the seminary was like the others, so it’s very hard to do this justice. What I will say though is that I feel tremendously blessed by my time in seminary. There were moments of friendship and laugher that strengthened me, times of challenge that helped me grow, formators and teachers—above all, Fr Phillip Fleay, the Rector for most of my time there—who believed in me and encouraged me, and experiences that formed me for ministry.

The Record: Has there been a highlight of seminary life?

EL: So many, but I think especially of the two pastoral ‘immersions’: one briefly in the remote community of Kalumburu, the other at St John of God Midland. I experienced many things for the first time and learnt a lot. 

The Record: Pope Francis has urged priests to reach out to the poor and those on the margins of our society and church community. How do you envisage doing this in your priestly ministry?

EL: It would depend, to a great extent, on where my next appointment will be. But I imagine I will try, as I do now, to first simply be present to all people and journey with them, as a sign of the Lord’s closeness to them, to remind them through my own humble ministry that they are infinitely valuable to God and to the Church.

The Record: Are there any aspects of priestly life that you are looking forward to?

EL: To the whole of the priestly ministry certainly, but perhaps in a special way, the celebration of the sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick—the ones which I will soon be celebrating for the first time as a priest.

The Record: How has your parish placement been? What has been a highlight of your time?

EL: There’s no one word to describe them. Like I said earlier, I have been tremendously blessed to have been in two parishes (Armadale and Gosnells) that are full of faith, vitality, and generosity.

There are so many highlights, but I think I am particularly grateful for my time in our parish schools, for the wonderful people I’ve met and all the opportunities for ministry there.

And I have been grateful to be accompanied by two excellent pastors for significant periods of time (Fr Philip Perreau at Gosnells; Fr Mark Baumgarten at Armadale), each with their own style, gifts, and talents, but immensely sensible, faith-filled, and committed to their parish communities.

Then seminarian Errol Lobo, first from left, kneels during prayer at St Charles Seminary. Photo: Archdiocese of Perth.

The Record: Where will you celebrate Mass for the first time?

EL: The first weekend after my ordination, I will preside at all Masses at the Armadale Parish. The parish has been my home for the last year.

The next weekend, on Saturday, I will preside at the 6:00PM Mass at the Gosnells Parish, celebrating in the church where I was ordained a deacon and with the wonderful people who journeyed with me to the diaconate.

Then, on Sunday the next day, I will celebrate Mass with the little community of St Kevin’s, Serpentine—they’re one of our Mass centres at the Armadale parish, and a truly remarkable community.

The Record: Have you received any great advice on your vocational journey?

EL: One piece of advice I received from a priest just before I entered seminary was: “As the novice, so the monk.”I’ve tried to live that out in my own journey towards ordination.

The Record: What message do you have to other young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood?

EL: Monsignor Marco Frisina, the Director of the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, once wrote that Pope John Paul II would say to him: “When God opens a door, you must enter.”

It’s advice I find particularly attractive, something I’ve tried to practise myself, and it’s something I’d encourage others to do.

The Record: Who would you like to thank for helping you get to this point? 

EL: There would be too many to list here. But, of course, my dearest Mum, Dad, and sister; Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB for accepting me both as a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Perth and more recently as a candidate for priestly ministry; Bishop Donald Sproxton, for his constant support, encouragement, and wisdom each time I’ve met him; Fr Philip Fleay and Monsignor Kevin Long who were the rectors of the seminary in my time there; all my formators and teachers, especially at the University of Notre Dame Australia; the parish priests with their parish and school communities where I’ve undertaken my pastoral placements and diaconal ministry, those who have opened their hearts, their homes and their lives to me in these places, and all those who have accompanied me these last years with their prayers and kind words.

And most of all, the Lord who knows and loves me. ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; For, O my God, it found out me, as my ordination card will say.

The Record: Any other final thoughts?

EL: I hope all your readers will pray for me, as I for them.

Deacon Errol Lobo and Deacon Jason Yeap will be Ordained to the Priesthood on 19 April 2024.

To find out more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Perth, visit https://stcharlesseminary.perthcatholic.org.au/.