And when he’s not teaching, he spends his time as a catechist and member of Adelaide’s Preca Community, part of the Society of Christian Doctrine established in Malta 111 years ago.
The 45-year-old Hindmarsh/Findon parishioner came to Australia from Malta 14 years ago at the request of the Preca Community which was struggling to maintain its presence in Adelaide.
He left behind his family and friends in the Preca Community which he had been part of since growing up in the village of Luqa.
It was a big move for a young man with a well-paid engineering job but from the age of 19 John had committed to the Preca lifestyle which has four dimensions – contemplative, laity, apostolic and prophetic – as well as a celibate life.
His commitment and his work with young people as a catechist was recognised at the highest level last month when he received an apostolic blessing from Pope Francis at the annual Catechists’ Commissioning Mass.
John said he had a strong Catholic upbringing in Luqa with his parents and three sisters, as well as his extended family which included two priests.
As a young boy he and nearly all of his friends attended Preca Centre every day except Wednesday and even then they would knock on the door to try and get in.
“It was a very social time as well as learning about Jesus,” he explained.
“On Sundays we would go for outings and we would play lots of soccer.”
At the age of 16 John was mentored by an elderly catechist who noticed his potential and he became involved in preparing a group of 50 boys for the sacrament of confirmation.
Moving on to university, he continued to oversee the faith formation of several groups of teens, while also preparing himself for his initiation as a full member of the community.
After completing his engineering studies, he was transferred to another Preca Centre in the neighbouring town of M’Skala. Within a year he was appointed leader of a team of about eight catechists in a fledgling centre attended by more than 500 young people preparing for the sacraments, as well as about 100 teenagers coming daily for prayer, sports and recreational activities.
John said he was attracted to Preca because of its emphasis on formation and its ministry with young people.
“I thought I could offer them something…and it was something good for me too,” he said.
“I have always loved learning and teaching; it fitted like a glove for me and I was supported by my family.”
Membership of the Preca Community differs from the consecrated life of religious orders where men or women take perpetual vows which are binding. Preca Community members, John explained, renew their vows daily and can opt out at any point.
However, he said for him it was a “lifelong commitment” and every day he renewed his promise to dedicate his life to Jesus.
His passion for engineering – which began with science experiments as a child in Malta – hasn’t waned and after deciding he was tired of sitting at a computer all day as a design engineer, he studied a Diploma of Education. After a year on contract at Banksia Park International School, he was made permanent.
“I work in my job from 8 to 5pm and after that, from 5.30 to 10pm, I am at the Preca Centre,” he said.
In Adelaide, there were failed attempts of establishing youth groups at Elizabeth and Lockleys parishes but it has had more success in the Sacred Heart parish with a group of about 50 meeting every Friday night at Nazareth College Senior Campus.
John also coordinated the parish sacramental program for 10 years but now he focuses more on what happens after receiving the sacraments.
As with the Maltese Preca Community, activities include soccer and other sports with half an hour of reflection in between. “It’s about just hanging out together,” he said. “The concept is that you grow as a faith community, not as an individual.”
To find out more about the Preca Community, visit www.precacommunity.org