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Flight of a lifetime


After starting training sessions in the National Cadet Corps Air Wing in India, Fr Gaetan Pereira SJ knew his calling was to travel the world in a different way.

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Celebrating the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination last month, the assistant parish priest at St Ignatius Norwood said he had committed himself to being “God’s pilot” instead.

“I was interested in aero-modelling and flying, and did some trials with NCC civilian gliding instructors but then I thought otherwise, there is something beyond,” he told The Southern Cross.

“With prayer came clarity and then I decided, I am going to be God’s pilot and travel around the world.”

After his ordination at Loyola College in Madras in May 1982, his vocation saw him directing candidates to the Society of Jesus and then teaching in rural areas of India – “working with the marginalised and a diverse variety of people, thus experiencing the Gospel in different ways”.

In the 1980s his staunch Catholic family decided to emigrate to Australia and in 1994, Fr Gaetan put the wheels in motion to relocate and join the Jesuits in Melbourne.

Fr Bill Uren SJ, who was then the Provincial, wrote to him and told him to ‘Come and see’ what the land Down Under had to offer.

“I came, I saw and I was conquered,” Fr Gaetan laughed.

At that time there were few migrant priests from India serving the Church in Australia, however he already knew some of the Australian Jesuits who had spent time working in India. Enjoying having his family nearby, Fr Gaetan threw his efforts into embracing the Australian lifestyle through cooking, bushwalking and gardening.

Fr Gaetan at his ordination in Madras.

After 12 years ministering in the Hawthorn Catholic parish, he began his journey of discovering the rest of Australia.

First stop was Perth and together with a friend, he drove across the Nullarbor to his new home.

“I wanted to see this vast arid country, nay continent. We enjoyed every minute, especially the Great Australian Bight and camping in Israelite Bay – wow, that was amazing!”

In Perth he served for six years as chaplain in John XXIII College,
Mt Claremont and as assistant priest at Holy Rosary parish in Nedlands/Dalkeith. He also managed to train for several half marathons and a marathon.

After a year back in Melbourne he headed to Toowong parish in Brisbane and was also the chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Auchenflower.

From there he moved to St Canice’s parish in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, where its kitchen in Kings Cross offers food and hospitality to all, without judgement.

“It was a good reminder that God accepts us as we are and whoever we are,” Fr Gaetan said.

Arriving at Manresa, the Jesuit residence in Norwood, in November last year, the spritely septuagenarian said he was enjoying getting to know the inner city parish “in and through the celebrations of the Sacraments”, as well as travel on Adelaide Metro to bushwalking reserves around the Adelaide Hills.

Drawn by the Jesuit Order’s ‘intellectual depths and its openness to find God in and through the Spiritual Exercises of Master Ignatius, while walking with the poor, accompanying the youth and respecting creation’, Fr Gaetan said he was grateful for being sent to South Australia to serve the local parish community as God’s Pilot.


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