ST Joseph's parishioners have welcomed a new assistant priest, Fr Vince Amaro, and farewelled Fr John Peyton, a visiting priest from England.
Fr Vince Amaro is a welcome addition to the parish clergy as assistant to Fr John McHugh, who has been ministering to parishioners alone since Fr Thaddeus Ike was transferred to Inverell last year.
Fr Vince arrived in Australia from the Philippines in June last year and spent time in the Inverell and Armidale parishes before being appointed to St Joseph's. Fr Vince brings a wealth of experience to his new role, after serving as hospital chaplain with the Disciples of Hope order in the Philippines.
He was born in the Bicol region of the Southern Philippines, historically known as Ibalong prior to Spanish colonisation. After completing his high school education, Fr Vince entered the seminary and was ordained in his parish church in 2000.
The second child in a family of two sons and two daughters, Fr Vince's. father worked as an overseas employee and his mother was a teacher at the local school.
After his ordination, Fr Vince spent the first three years in his local diocese, followed by six years ministering to the sick and dying in a hospital where he was appointed as a chaplain. After that, he was appointed parish priest of Mary Mother of the Church Parish, within the Diocese of Novaliches, while also served as priest-coordinator of pastoral care of the elderly where the prime focus was the older people suffering from common ailments, negligence and homelessness. Fr Vince said the elderly sector in Australia is in a lot better condition than what he had witnessed in the Philippines.
Four years later, Fr Vince was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in the same diocese and it was here that he heard about the call for priests in the Catholic Diocese of Armidale. Fr Vince is grateful for the support of fellow Filipino priests, especially Fr Joe Adriano, a former parish priest at Gunnedah, who became instrumental in his coming here in the Diocese of Armidale.
Fr Vince's arrival in St Joseph's Parish, coincided with the departure of Fr John Peyton who has been visiting from the UK. Fr John and parish priest Fr John McHugh became firm friends when they were undergoing formation for the priesthood in Rome.
The two Fr Johns have stayed in touch and "Pommy John" as he became affectionately known in Gunnedah, immersed himself in the Australian way, which he says has given him many ideas for his own parish at St Thomas More, in Sheldon, Birmingham, about 200km north of London.
With a Catholic population of around 2000, Fr John said the smaller country parish of St Joseph's seemed to have 'more time to care for each other'. He was especially impressed with the devotion of young people at St Mary's College and St Xavier's School and the care and compassion shown by the community.
Born at Sollihull in the West Midlands to Irish parents, Fr John grew up in the area with two brothers and a sister and was inspired from an early age to become a priest.
He also had an interest in science, however, and his life's path saw him become a research chemist before he felt the call to priesthood after the death of his father in 1991 and his mother in 2001.
After completing his studies at Beda College in Rome, he was ordained in his home parish of the Sacred Heart and Holy Souls, at Acocks Green, south east of Birmingham.
In 2008, he was appointed assistant priest to St Patrick's Parish in Winson Green, Birmingham, where he also served as chaplain at the local hospital and the prison. He has been parish priest at St Thomas More for the past nine years.
Although he is a keen soccer fan in England, his friend Fr John McHugh is a 'rugby tragic' and he was coerced into watching the Wallabies play rugby during his visit, which also included a tour of Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Parishioners farewelled Fr John Peyton with a morning tea and welcomed their new priest Fr Vince, who is looking forward to becoming involved in the community and learning more about the Australian way of life.