A gift given out of God’s love

By Josh Low

Bringing God’s unconditional love to souls through the sacraments is the best thing about being a priest, according to St Mary’s Cathedral Administrator, Fr Leonard Caldera.

Arriving in Tasmania from his native Sri Lanka in March 2020, Fr Leonard has now been a priest for 16 years.

Before coming to Australia, he served as a formator for candidates to the priesthood, a Parish Priest, and a chaplain to a community of religious sisters in Sri Lanka.

As a young person, Fr Leonard said he never considered the priesthood as he considered it a difficult and unusual lifestyle.

“I had my own plans for my life, to enjoy all that the world had to offer and to never look back,” he said.

“But as God says in Isaiah 55, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord’.”

Everything changed when he came across a small booklet written about St Francis of Assisi at his local library.

“I was quite fascinated by the life of this saint and his love in the way he encountered God.

“It simply changed the way I relate to God; He became more personal,” he explained.

“The Franciscan approach to God and His love to all is what touched me deeply. That is what started my journey to the Priesthood.”

Fr Leonard said moments of encounter where he is able to help people grow deeper in their relationship with God make up the highlights of his ministry. Photo: Josh Low

Concluding that journey in 2007, Fr Leonard remembers the day of his ordination fondly.

“The day of my ordination was the happiest day of my life – above all, I deeply felt God’s presence as I was ordained.

“I was deeply aware of my calling and the response I had just made in a very public manner.

“My first Mass was also truly a celebration, not because of the joy I felt in my heart, but above all it was a moment for my hometown to celebrate the gift of the priesthood given to one of their own,” he said.

After 16 years Fr Leonard is still looking for creative ways to respond as a priest to what he describes as an increasingly anti-Catholic culture.

“The priesthood has not changed, but the way I live and relate as a priest has changed and evolved,” he said.

“We have to come up with creative ways and means to evangelise and bring the Gospel.

“As Archbishop Julian often tell us, we must become not just shepherds but also fishermen for God.”

Moments of encounter when he can help people to reconnect or grow deeper in their relationship with God are the highlights of his priestly ministry.

“A couple of months ago I met a person who had come to the Cathedral [and] approached me to make their confession, after almost 25 years.

“These are the highlights of my ministry as a priest, and I am always in awe at the way God breaks through [to] people and speaks to their hearts to bring them back Home.

“He is the Master and I am just the steward,” Fr Leonard said, adding that the priesthood was a gift.

“It is a gift given out of God’s love, for it is God who calls, always remember that.

“Thus, if you feel called, make yourself worthy by a strong prayer life and a love for service.”

Tags: Archdiocese, News, Vocations