Fr Frank Freeman commemorates six decades of priestly vocation

13 Aug 2020

By Theresia Titus

Australian Catholic Press Association (ACPA) Life Member and editor of the “Salesian Bulletin” Fr Frank Freeman SDB. Photo: Supplied.

Salesian priest Father Frank Freeman SDB, who now resides at the Salesian Province Centre in Ascot Vale in Victoria, has last month celebrated 60 years of priesthood.

The Australian Catholic Press Association (ACPA) Life Member – who was ordained on 1 July 1960 with 33 other Salesian brothers after four years of theological studies at the Salesian International Seminary of Bollengo in Northern Italy – told The eRecord that his journey to the priesthood began in 1943 and involved “a significant geographical error” on his part.

“It was time for my sister and me to attend boarding school, and I was given a choice of three boarding colleges, among which was one called ‘Salesian School’.

“I mistakenly assumed that it would be in Sale, the capital of Gippsland, and so just up the road. To my youthful surprise, for my secondary education, I ended up at the Salesian Agricultural School in Sunbury, Victoria, north of Melbourne.

It was at Salesian Agricultural School in Sunbury that he came to know the Salesian community, including meeting an English rector, an Italian priest and German brothers, whose homelands were at war, but were “so united in their care of one another and of their students”.

“As time passed, we all came to admire and appreciate a group of men who could rise above divisions and whose lives witnessed to everything that is of gospel value,” Fr Freeman said.

“Such was the power of that witness that later three of our group returned to join them and eventually influenced our decisions to enter the priesthood.”

Fr Frank Freeman who celebrated his priesthood anniversary on 1 July. Photo: Supplied.

Fr Freeman explained that those who wished to enter Salesian congregation need to follow a 12-year formation programme, which includes being an aspirant, a novice, three years of philosophical studies, three years of practical training and four years of theological studies.

“It has been a long journey along the road of ‘universal fatherhood’. The priesthood is a state of life with its responsibilities, but [being priestly] is of the heart and mind,” Fr Freeman said.

“The yearning for a fleshed name, for motherhood and fatherhood, is so deeply ingrained in our nature, that when one becomes convinced that it is God’s vocation for the individual to leave that aside, it always remains a felt thing of the heart.

“The call to universal fatherhood, that all may call one ‘Father’, and mean it, remains an occurring echo throughout life. Priesthood confers the power and authority which are the means for service, while [being priestly] affirms, encourages and builds relationships,” he continued. 

Fr Freeman shared his journey to the priesthood and challenges he faced in the past 60 years with The Record. Photo: Supplied.

During 60 years of priesthood, Fr Freeman was also an educational administrator for 40 years, as well as an Editor and journalist of Salesian Bulletin for 38 years.

“[My main challenges were] the daily apostolates assigned to me, involved [in my role of] leading school communities across Australia, mainly diocesan co-educational regional colleges,” Fr Freeman said.

“They were indeed challenging days. [However], the challenges faced brought opportunities for personal growth and a sense of achievement and wellbeing.

“Under the blessings and graciousness of God, I have lived and enjoyed a life enriched by three careers, namely the priesthood, educational administration, and journalism. I have often marvelled at how each one enriched the other two and made the daily challenges able to be faced,” he added.

Fr Freeman retired from introducing large diocesan co-educational colleges to the Australian education scene “with a tremendous appreciation of the goodness of young people”.

“Their generosity, youthful enthusiasm, idealism and a sense of fairness and justice have much to offer for adults,” Fr Freeman stated.“Not only in marking their assignments but watching they grow into wonderful young men and women, then, blessings their marriages, and baptising their children touches the heartstrings of universal fatherhood,” he continued.

Being a member of the Society of St Francis de Sales (Salesians), Fr Freeman held to the definition of vocation based on the words of St Francis de Sales himself: “A good vocation is simply a firm and constant will in which the person who is called must serve God in the way and in the places to which Almighty God has called him”.

“At 89 years old, as I await his second call, with a firm and constant will, I serve him in the way and places he has already called me,” he concluded.