By Anthony Barich
A West Australian initiative fostering global friendship and support by lay people for seminarians, religious and priests was officially inaugurated by Archbishop Barry Hickey on February 23 when Voice of the Voiceless was launched.
Voice of the Voiceless was started by Nigerian priest and current Corrigin/Kulin parish priest Fr Nicholas Nweke, who was inspired by the late John Paul II, who said in a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa” that the Church Fathers at the Synod had declared that “the Church must continue to exercise her prophetic role and be the voice of the voiceless, so that everywhere the human dignity of every individual will be acknowledged”.
Archbishop Hickey told the Voice of the Voiceless members at the inauguration Mass that the most effective way to carry out their ministry is by removing things like sin that block the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
“Let us receive the Holy Spirit, and draw out the things that it gives us – love, compassion, friendship and generosity in our hearts towards others,” he said.
“Holiness comes from the Holy Spirit. We can’t make ourselves holy, only God can do that. So ask Him to remove the things that block the Holy Spirit from working in us so we can extend the hand of friendship to others.”
Fr Nicholas, who met JPII, concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Hickey, Bassendean parish priest Fr Jim Shelton and Innaloo parish priest Fr Nicholas Perera to inaugurate the Voice of the Voiceless ministry at Notre Dame Church in Cloverdale.
Fr Nweke said that without Archbishop Hickey, who he met while studying in Rome, Voice of the Voiceless would not exist, as the Archbishop invited him to complete his seminary studies in the Archdiocese of Perth and be a priest here.
Archbishop Hickey, who was the first person Fr Nweke told of his idea when it emerged in 2006, said he appreciates the difficulties seminarians from overseas experience when studying in Perth.
“I was born in Australia and have known the consolation of having family to visit,” Archbishop Hickey said.
“Those from other countries don’t and can feel lost and alone. Therefore, for priests and seminarians who find themselves out of a supportive network due to loss of family, the Voice of the Voiceless ministry will be the family for them.”
The Voice of the Voiceless ministry has already helped students at St Charles Seminary with language classes, and the ministry further endeavors to do the same, offering spiritual, logistical and material help for seminarians in poverty-stricken areas.
Already Voice of the Voiceless has received from the United States, where Fr Nweke’s cousin Stella Okagbue, from San Antonio, has sponsored the group’s shirts and pamphlets, along with Archbishop Hickey’s vestments he wore for the inauguration.
Letters of encouragement from Germany and Canada were also read at the inauguration.
“This ministry is about global friendships and transformative friendships,” Fr Nicholas said.