Fr Mario Zammit mssp, Parish Priest of St John’s, Heidelberg, has been a fixture at St James Parish over many years, assisting and supporting Fr Jude in our Parish and in our Mission Trips to the Philippines. Later this year, Fr Mario will leave the Australian Province of the MSSPs to begin his new ministry in the Philippines. Here are a few words from Fr Mario, addressing his Parish:
Over the past few weeks, at our weekday Masses, the gospel readings were taken from the long farewell speech of Jesus at the Last Supper narrative according the John. This farewell speech covers four chapters in this gospel! I do not pretend to be John the evangelist, even if I have spent the last seven years in his shadow, but it does seem that my farewell speech(es) are coming in a number of editions. Please bear with me. I would have dearly loved to share some of these thoughts with you in person, but our new friend Covid had other plans!
Up to a few months ago, if anyone asked me whether I had any intention of leaving the parish, I would have definitely answered with a clear NO! I was certainly enjoying my time at St John’s, surrounded with a nice group of parishioners and friends, school staff and students, with my ministry at OLMC and Marcellin colleges and the hospitals. I believe that, apart from some hiccups that are part of life anyway, we had struck a good relationship and were enjoying each other’s company. My intention was that, after I finished my first six-year term as parish priest in November 2021, I put my hand up for another term, taking me to 2027, before I had to consider moving to another parish. So what changed?
While my first love has always been, and still is, St John’s and ministry in the parish, what many of you did not realise was that I had a second love which I rarely spoke about. Before my sudden appearance at St John’s in October 2013, I had just spent six months in Manila and in Bataan, in the Philippines. I actually went back there in September 2015, and then with two groups in January of 2019 and 2020. I had always nurtured a love of working among the less fortunate among God’s people. In 1980, as a deacon, I had already spent one full year in Karachi and in Faisalabad, in Pakistan, a ministry I totally enjoyed.
Last January, during my visit to the Philippines with some members of our parish, things finally fell into place, and as those who were with me can tell, I really enjoyed the space and could not resist requesting my superiors to consider assigning me to that mission. The parishioners who joined me in either of those trips can appreciate what draws me to that mission.
Through our Baptism, each of us is called to be a missionary and to witness to God’s words and actions in our life. We are called to be missionaries in every situation we encounter. My ministry in the parishes in NSW and in Heidelberg was certainly missionary. I have always tried my best to live the good news with you. As a member of a missionary congregation, I feel drawn to minister among those who are less fortunate—this seems to be part of my DNA. My transfer to the mission in the Philippines gives me the opportunity to live out this part of my missionary vocation.
I understand that I have left myself open to be accused that I have cheated you by abandoning my first love and choosing to continue my journey with my second love, but I ask you to be kind to me and appreciate my desire to take up this new ministry. Once again I thank you all for your welcome, friendship and support. As I said in my message two months ago, I will always carry you with me in my heart!
Fr Mario Zammit mssp