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Heeding the call of God

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The ordination of the Archdiocese’s newest priest, Pasquale (Pat) Lopresti, at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on Saturday was an opportunity to celebrate the “great generosity of God”.

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Describing it as a “joyous and wonderful day” for the Adelaide Archdiocese, Archbishop Pat O’Regan gave thanks for Fr Pat’s response to the “insistent call of God” which came later in his life.

“We celebrate the generosity of God today and Pat may you continue to know the Lord’s generosity in your life and by doing so imitate that each and every day of your life,” Archbishop O’Regan said.

“Your mission is to befriend those who have no-one, to give voice for those who have no-one, to sing the praise of God, to bless God’s holy people, to walk with them in communion.”

Archbishop O’Regan said it was important for Fr Pat to continue to ask the question of how to preach the gospel to the “women and men of today”.

“Pat, keep one foot in the church and one foot in the main street. Get your boots dirty because the life of service is one in which we draw close to those whom we serve, not in some unattainable perfect world but in this imperfect world, the one upon which God looks with love.”

A Blackfriars Priory School old scholar and former lawyer with the Adelaide Crown Solicitor’s Office, Fr Pat was living and working in Sydney when he began to discern a vocation in the priesthood. He was well into his fifties when he started his studies at Pope St John XXIII National Seminary in Boston in 2016.

Ordained to the diaconate in April last year, Fr Pat had a long wait to becoming a priest due to the pandemic.

Despite the restrictions in place, the Cathedral was filled to ‘COVID capacity’ for the Saturday morning service, with 240 people in attendance.

Almost a thousand others – including Fr Pat’s large extended family, friends and classmates from Australia and overseas –  took part in the celebration via the live streaming service.

Special guests at the ordination included Fr Pat’s Sydney-based sister Rita and brother-in-law Bill Weaver who presented him with his stole and chasuble and nieces Emily and Chiara who gave readings.

Concelebrating were Bishop Charles Gauci from Darwin, Vicar General Fr Philip Marshall, Cathedral Administrator Fr Anthoni Adimai and more than 40 priests from throughout the Archdiocese.

Addressing the congregation, Fr Pat said while he was did not want to make a thank-you speech like those heard at the Oscars, there were several people he needed to acknowledge for supporting him on his journey.

“I thank God first and foremost for calling me to this priestly ministry,” he said.

“I thank Archbishop Wilson for accepting my candidacy, Bishop O’Kelly for ordaining me to the diaconate and Archbishop O’Regan for ordaining me today.”

An emotional Fr Pat gave thanks to his late parents for their “love and support” and said he knew they were “here with me in spirit”, and also thanked his sister and her family for attending.

Among many others, Fr Pat thanked Fr Paul Ghanem OFM who was his parish priest in Sydney and spiritual director.

In an interview with The Southern Cross in 2018, Fr Lopresti spoke of the wonderful support from
Fr Ghanem when he was discerning the call to the priesthood.

At the time he was in Sydney, pursuing a career in the academic side of the law and undertaking further study. Each year he would use his annual leave to travel to France and volunteer at Lourdes.

“When I got back in 2012 from visiting Lourdes, Medjugorje and Fatima it was a crossroads in my life,” he said.

“I thought I would go to the three Marian shrines and think about my vocation seriously. I thought, this is the time for me to think of what I want to do in my second half of my life. I always had this thing (of becoming a priest) that kept nagging in the back of my mind.

“When I got back to Sydney I did some research and went online and looked at different religious orders and discovered the vocations director for the Franciscans (Fr Ghanem) was right there in my parish.”

In recognition of the challenging times that COVID has brought upon the world, at his ordination Fr Lopresti made mention of his classmates from Boston who were watching virtually.

“I want to thank all of you here present – my extended family and friends and parishioners – and through the miracle of technology I am able to also thank those who are attending virtually today,” he said.

Fr Pat celebrated his first Mass at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Henley Beach on Sunday morning. For the next couple of months he will be based at the Hindmarsh-Findon (Sacred Heart) parish assisting Fr Lancy D’Silva CSC.

Fr Lopresti with his sister Rita and brother-in-law Bill Weaver and nieces Emily (left) and Chiara. Pictures: Ben Macmahon

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