On Friday 5th May the whole Parish came together to celebrate Fr. Ghebreyesus' 25th anniversary of ordination. Fr. G, as he is known, was joined on the altar by Vicar General Mgr. Paul Fisher, Mgr. Philip Moger, Fr. Gerard Kearney, Fr. Lorenzo, the Italian Chaplain, Fr. Melaku from Ethiopia, who was also celebrating his Silver Jubilee that week, plus many of Fr. G's brother priests from across the Diocese.
In his homily Fr. G. gave the congregation a brief history of his life. He explained that he was the seventh child of four sisters and six brothers and it was his father who insisted that he be named "Ghebreyesus". Ghebre means Servant and Yesus means Jesus, thus "servant of Jesus".
He entered seminary at the age of 12 and after a tricky start, missing family etc, soon adapted to the life. He spent 9 years in minor seminary and then a further 7 years training in philosophy and theology in Eritrea's capital city, Asmara. It was here at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Unfailing Help, that he was ordained on 3rd May 1992.
In 2009, while working in Rome, Fr. G felt a second calling. At the time he was seeing many refugees sleeping in train and bus stations and it broke his heart. As a result he asked for a move from monastic to missionary life and a year later he received permission from his superiors and sponsorship from the Bishop of Leeds. He moved to the Holy Rosary church and served both the parish and the Eritrean Catholic community in Leeds. He moved to the Parish of Blessed John Henry Newman in 2014 to minister to the parish but continues his service to the Eritrean Catholic community.
Fr. G was very appreciative of all of the work done by the many good people of the Parish that volunteer their time and energy so willingly, and he asked that the Parish keep praying for him. He concluded with the words of the Grail prayer:
I give you my hands to do your work
I give you my feet to go your way
I give you my eyes to see as you do
I give you my tongue to speak your words
I give you my mind that you may think in me
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me
Following mass the congregation retired to the Newman Parish Centre for a faith supper and, as usual, the centre table groaned under the weight of the many food offerings.
Sheelagh Pickles thanked Fr. G for his service to the parish in these words: Good evening everyone. It's wonderful to see everyone here this evening to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Fr. Ghebreyesus. He has been with us for almost 4 years and in that time has become an invaluable member of the parish team.
Quite apart from his pastoral work in the parish, he has worked tirelessly in St. Theresa's Primary School and is loved by children and staff alike.
On many Sundays, Fr. G becomes a bit like Superman - after celebrating mass in the parish, he flies off to The Rosary Church in Chapeltown or to Manchester or Sheffield to minister to the Eritrean community.
In between all that, Fr. G manages to find time to produce calendars, cards and even a complete prayer book for the Eritrean community ...oh yes...and he's taught himself to play the keyboard!
Fr. G, we are privileged to have you with us, to share your joys and sorrows - we celebrated with you when you became a British citizen and we shared in your sadness at the loss of your beloved Father - and now we would like to show our appreciation for all you do and are - and on behalf of the Parish I would like to present this token of our appreciation.
A cheque for over £1,400 was handed to Fr. G. Following an opportunity for people to recharge their glasses, Richard Strudwick proposed the toast.
In addition to the cheque, Fr. G was also presented with a fabulous cake.
The celebrations which went on late into the evening included exuberant singing and dancing led by members of the Eritrean Catholic Community along with the beating of an extremely large drum.