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Postal service brings new priest to order


Newly ordained priest Fr Tony Simbel CP says you can in part blame the Papua New Guinea postal service for his call to vocation.

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Born and raised in the small town of Aitape in the north east of PNG near the Indonesian border, Fr Tony said when he was at a crossroads in his life as a young man it was the mail delivery that set him once again on the path of the priesthood.

“I had been doing bits and pieces – I was involved in youth ministry in the diocese and had a part time job with building construction for some years,” he explained.

“I still wanted to be a priest so I wrote to different congregations. I wrote to the Passionists and then I also wrote to join the military…and I said whatever response that I got first I would follow.

“On the Thursday I received a letter from the Passionists and on the Friday I received a letter from the military, so you can blame the postal people!”

Fr Tony, 32, was ordained at The Monastery on Saturday May 15 by Archbishop Patrick O’Regan, in the presence of 32 priests from the Archdiocese and Passionists, friends and family including an aunt, uncle and cousins from Melbourne. International travel restrictions due to the pandemic meant his parents and siblings in PNG had to be content watching the event via a live stream.

Reflecting on his journey to the priesthood, Fr Tony said God had shown a “lot of patience with me”.

Raised in a strong Catholic family with nine children – he is the youngest – after completing his secondary education with the Salesians, the young Tony attended the local diocesan seminary.

However after a couple of years he came to the conclusion “this is not what I wanted”.

“I was only 18 at the time, so I left and went home.”

But the call to the priesthood persisted and after receiving the well-timed letter from the Passionists, he started studying with them in PNG before coming to Adelaide in 2013 for his novitiate year. He moved to Melbourne to undertake theology studies, then onto Sydney before returning to Adelaide last year, just before the borders closed.

Fr Tony said he hopes that when things “settle down” with the pandemic he may return to PNG to minister there, particularly assisting with social justice issues.

“I’m drawn to service to those who are on the margins. I find that appealing and rewarding, just to be there with them, listening to their stories and sometimes you can’t believe what they are telling you, it just blows your mind.”

For now he remains with the Glen Osmond-Parkside parish and is adjusting to life as a priest.

“The ordination was special for me as it has been a long journey and a lot of waiting and patience,” he said.

“I was glad that finally it came and I was able to celebrate with all those brother priests, family and friends from interstate and although my immediate family wasn’t here they were able to watch the livestream.”


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