Hearing about the lives of third world seminarians while growing up on the Mediterranean island of Malta, inspired a young Mikiel Zammit to contemplate entering the priesthood.
Mikiel adopted the name of Edward on the day he professed in the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.
Fr Edward Zammit, 74, now Parish Administrator at George Town, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination on 11 March.
Those early reports from seminarians in far-off lands had a profound impact on Fr Edward, who was born in August 1942, one of five children to Giovanni and Berta, in the small rural town of Mgarr, Malta.
“The World Catholic Mission Office in Malta encouraged families to adopt a seminarian from third world countries by praying for him and paying for his studies,” he recalled.
“My grandparents, my parents and other relatives were actively part of this mission project.
“When they received letters from the seminarian they read them to one another in front of us, their children. I looked forward to hearing about the seminarians from Mission Land.
“My interest in mission seminarians became a desire to become a priest.”
Fr Edward attended high school at Stella Maris College of the De La Salle Brothers, Gzira, Malta, where Franciscan priests were the chaplains of the college. Some students went to a monthly meeting at the Franciscan Friary to learn about Franciscan spiritual life.
“Through this event, God led me to be a Franciscan priest,” he said.
He was ordained at St John’s Cathedral Church, Valletta, Malta, on Saturday, 11 March 1967.
Fr Edward explained that the charism Jesus gave to St Francis of Assisi suggests more ‘to follow’ (transforming spiritually in Jesus, the whole person), than ‘to imitate’ (copying some of Jesus’ virtues). St Francis’ charism thus makes Jesus come alive and visible to the people.
The past half century has seen Fr Edward serving in roles around the world: as a priest in Malta; in Rome, Italy (parish vicar at San Gregorio VII Franciscan Parish); Toronto, Canada (chaplain to the Maltese community); and Australia: migrant chaplain and assistant priest and later parish priest at Christ the King Parish, Lockleys, Adelaide SA; chaplain in the Australian Regular Army (three years at Kapooka, Wagga, NSW and three years at Liverpool Military Area, St Christopher Chapel, Holsworthy, Sydney, NSW). He has been at George Town since November 2003.
Each day brings new joy.
“I have learned a lot from the people I serve and my learning never ends,” he said.
“I have learned not to let myself be discouraged celebrating to a small crowd – Jesus said, ‘Where two or more gather in my name, I am there among them’ and, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock…’ ”
Fr Edward thanked Archbishop Julian, his brother priests, the organisers and all who attended his 50th anniversary of ordination at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, George Town.
“I felt God’s blessings pouring over me as I was surrounded by Archbishop Porteous, brother priests and God’s people during the Mass and at the reception in the parish hall,” Fr Edward said.
“I was blessed to have present for the occasion my sister, Clara, and my nephew, Edward, who came from NSW.”