NATIONAL: New Australia-Pacific Provincial of the Salesians of Don Bosco
By Josh Low
Fr William Matthews SDB was recently appointed as the 11th Provincial of Australia-Pacific Province for the Salesians of Don Bosco by Rector Major (World Leader) of the Salesian Order, Fr Ángel Artime SDB, for a period of 6 years running from 2018 to 2024.
The new Australia-Pacific Provincial spoke to The eRecord about his journey which saw him under the guidance of Fr (now Archbishop) Timothy Costelloe SDB and ordained a priest at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth by then Archbishop Barry Hickey.
Born in Mandalay, Myanmar, on 3 June 1971 and spending his early years at St Joseph’s Salesian parish, Fr William says that he was lucky to have grown up in a Salesian community.
“I grew up with the Salesians and love Don Bosco’s Salesian family spirit and the community life of working together.
“I always wanted to become a priest to serve other people and wanted to work with young people, especially those in need; those struggling,” he said.
After completing his studies at school, Fr Will joined the Salesians. However, in an interesting turn of events, his family migrated to Perth in 1994 in the middle of his Novitiate to be closer to other relatives who had been in Australia for many years.
It was only in the winter of 1995 when Fr William made the move from Perth across to Melbourne to re-join the Salesians, where he was met by his first superior, then Fr Timothy Costelloe.
“The then Fr Tim Costelloe SDB, now Archbishop of Perth, was the first Salesian I met in Melbourne back in 1995.
“He was my first superior as pre-novice Master, picking me up from the airport in the middle of a cold winter night and was my Rector while I studied theology prior to my priestly ordination,” he said.
It took Fr William 10 years to become a Salesian priest, which included his first profession in Lysterfield in 1997, perpetual profession at Ferntree Gully, Melbourne in 2003, practical training in Gawler and Ferntree Gully and the completion of his theological studies at Melbourne’s Catholic Theology College in 2004.
Fr William was ordained a priest at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth by Archbishop Hickey on 9 December 2005 together with 8 other priests, most of whom still serve in Perth.
Since then he has been involved in school ministry in various roles as a teacher, assistant and chaplain in Ferntree Gully, Gawler (South Australia) and Sunbury (Victoria) and has been Delegate for the Social Communications at a provincial level for the past nine years, taking on the responsibility of Vocations Animator over the past three.
Fr William said that he felt anxious upon first learning of his appointment as Provincial of the Australia-Pacific region for the Salesians.
“Being asked to take on such a huge responsibility; I lost a night of sleep!
“Yet, having complete faith in God who humbled me with the support of my fellow Salesians, I am at peace now to face up to both the challenges and rewards,” he said.
“I know it is not going to be easy, but I am a strong believer of Philippians 4:13; I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
With the Salesians of Don Bosco dedicated service of the young, especially the disadvantaged and marginalised, Fr William says that even if it is still early, he is hopeful for the future in his new role.
“How I want to serve is to bring all Salesians together to belong more to God, more to each other, and more to the young,” he concluded.
Fr William still calls Perth home and comes back every summer to spend time with his family and sometimes to help out at Nanga Salesian summer camps in Dwellingup.