by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — Auckland diocese’s newest priest Fr Alfredo Garcia likes the multicultural character of his adopted home, New Zealand.
“It is like serving the whole world in a particular place,” Fr Garcia told NZ Catholic.
“It makes you feel the richness of the Church, as a people.”
Fr Garcia, 36, who came to New Zealand from the Philippines in 2010, was ordained to the presbyterate by Bishop Patrick Dunn at St Patrick’s Cathedral on May 26.
Bishop Dunn referred to “God’s mysterious plan at this time in history, [in which] God is using the faith of the Church in the Philippines to help renew the Church in so many continents and also here in New Zealand”.
“Alfredo, I see you as very much part of that movement,” Bishop Dunn added, thanking Fr Garcia for his generosity and courage in coming to “a strange land” for his vocation.
The bishop also referred to the diversity of the Auckland presbyterate, noting the diocese’s priests come from 20 different countries of birth.
Fr Garcia said he was first attracted to priesthood as a child, with the role of the priest at the Eucharist impressing him. He also had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In the Philippines, Fr Garcia spent 12 years in formation with the Congregation of Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ (the Stigmatines), an order whose aim is to be apostolic missionaries in obedience to the local bishop. During this time he was ordained as deacon.
But Fr Garcia eventually sought to clarify whether he was being called to life as a priest in a religious order. So he left the Stigmatines for a period and worked as a teacher and in other jobs.
But the call to a vocation was still strong and he applied to an Australian diocese after seeing television coverage of World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, where Australian bishops talked about vocation shortages. But Fr Garcia was summonsed back to his Stigmatine congregation and he returned to them for several months.
Although he treasured his years with the congregation, he was eventually convinced God was calling him to something else.
An earlier application he made to Auckland diocese was acknowledged and, after an interview, he was invited to continue his formation in New Zealand.
After a brief time of orientation in Balmoral parish, he then spent several months in Northcote parish before moving to St Michael’s, Remuera, where he is now based.
Fr Garcia said he hopes to be available for anything the diocese asks of him.
This corresponds to the spirituality in which he has been formed, he said.
Fr Garcia celebrated his first Mass at St Michael’s Church, Remuera, on May 27.
by MICHAEL OTTO