Long journey ends in joyous ordination ceremony in front of packed audience

After a 37-year wait, Fr Anthony Coloma has been ordained - alongside Fr John Lovell - at a packed ceremony on 16 February at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.

It was the first dual ordination in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in 15 years. It is possibly the first to be concelebrated by two bishops – the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bill Wright and the Bishop of Wollongong, Brian Mascord.

“I’ve been telling my mother since I was five years old that I wanted to be a priest,” Fr Anthony said.

“Leading people in liturgy and providing the space for people to encounter God is what I’ve always wanted to do in my life.”

Over 300 people and up to 30 retired and active members of the clergy, some of whom flew in from the Philippines, attended the ordination. A faith-filled atmosphere of joy was apparent in the church and the congregation broke into spontaneous applause often in recognition of the achievements of the two men.

Fr Anthony’s journey to the priesthood had been prolonged and challenging but he refused to give up on his dream. “I had some problems with a bishop in the Philippines and was not being progressed,” Fr Coloma said. “When I attempted to continue my training in Singapore or Hong Kong, this bishop would not support me and my journey stalled.”

After Fr Anthony made contact with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Bishop Bill agreed to consider the views of other referees, not only the dissenting bishop, and accepted Fr Anthony’s request to join the Diocese.

“On the day of the ordination I was not nervous or even excited, I just felt so peaceful because I was finally beginning what I love to do - ministry,” he said. “I began telling parishioners right away, ‘chop, chop, it’s now time for me to go to work’.”

Unlike Fr Anthony, Fr John felt his calling to the priesthood much later in life and in 2014 aged 56, began his studies in Rome at the Beda Pontifical College. “Upon returning to Australia in June 2018, I was appointed by Bishop Bill Wright as the parochial deacon for the Chisholm region of parishes,” he said. “Being ordained is kind of like the icing on the cake to that as it provides the fuller powers of the priesthood; I will now be much busier.”

Both Fr John and Fr Anthony acknowledged the significant impact of Bishop Bill’s advice to them on the day. In his homily the Bishop implored the two men to go out and work for the salvation of all, “not just the Catholics”, in the spirit of Christ. “We have all been made for a purpose and it is now up to you to help people find that purpose and help them forge a relationship with the creator,” Bishop Bill said.  “You are to care for your flock but not only those who enter your church.”

In his closing remarks, Bishop Bill noted it had been a long time since the Diocese had ordained two priests at the same time and while it was unlikely this would occur again soon, “anything was possible”.

For their first appointments Bishop Bill has allowed Fr John to remain in Chisholm for the immediate future, while Fr Anthony has been appointed to the Singleton parish.

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