If anyone should become a faithful, holy priest, he must be willing to sell his possessions – the things that he considers important but that God does not consider important. And so far, the Lord has forced Fr Hugh Joyeau to empty himself in suffering.
This was the crux of the message delivered by homilist Fr Martin Sirju, moderator of the San Fernando/Mon Repos/La Romaine/Pointe-a-Pierre cluster at a 5.30 p.m. Mass November 8 in celebration of Fr Joyeau’s 30th anniversary of priestly ordination. Venue was the Our Lady of Fatima RC Church, Curepe.
Addressing a gathering of friends, family, seminarians, parishioners, the Vicar for the Southern Vicariate likened Fr Joyeau’s journey to that of Christ who was stripped of His decency on the cross, of friends and stripped of life.
He explained, “And looking at Fr Hugh, I have seen some stripping that have taken place — the stripping of getting older as years have gone by…And he lost quite a lot of his good looks,” he joked. “The Lord has also stripped him of good health to some extent. The Lord has also stripped him of mobility. The Lord has stripped him of a certain amount of ministry and I’m sure the Lord continues to strip him in ways he alone can testify,” Fr Sirju told the congregation.
Fr Sirju shared two stories of persons having to strip themselves of possessions that could lead to revenge, hostility, anger, low self-esteem, or pride and “buying new things” such as friendship, love, self-esteem, the right to be heard….”and so this is in keeping with today’s Gospel,” he said.
Fr Sirju recalled a conversation he had with Fr Henry Charles ‘Many will be ordained but few shall be priests’, which he said left a “chilling echo” in his mind.
He added, “And I think if we are to become priests after Jesus Christ, the only high priest of all of Melchizedek, then we have to allow ourselves to be stripped more and more and at the end of the stripping to find the glory of God which Fr Hugh has undergone in his suffering.”
He continued, “It is not therefore a stripping of an onion because when you strip an onion, when you reach the centre, there is nothing…When we are stripped we find ourselves small….And I invite you to rejoice with Fr Hugh who has come to something at the centre of his stripping and which all priests ought to find at the centre of their stripping…with a fair amount of comfort,” he said.
In delivering brief remarks, Fr Joyeau thanked family, friends and clergy for their continued support even as he struggled on whether to continue to respond to God’s call to serve.
Responding to earlier comments made by Fr Sirju of the Lord stripping him of his good looks, Fr Joyeau remarked “That is not what my mirror said to me,” to the congregation’s thunderous laughter and applause.
However, he thanked Fr Sirju for words of encouragement in good and blessed times, for making himself available, for his understanding, and adding that he too had to put up with his bad ways. Fr Joyeau commented that prior to ordination he along with other brother seminarians did not realise the presence of God in them.
He declared, “I say if I must be wounded in any way or scarred in any way, I believe in a God who allowed me to praise him. I thank God today for those spiritual challenges.
The ceremony included a presentation to Fr Hayden Augustine, who is based overseas, in recognition of his 30th priestly anniversary, and to Fr Joyeau from a member of the Augustine family.
Provincial Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, Fr Gregory Augustine CSSp collected on his brother’s behalf.
The main concelebrants were Vicar General Msgr Christian Pereira and Fr Augustine. A Rite of Remembrance was led by Fr Leslie Tang Kai. – KJ