Fr John Spiteri was born in Malta in 1947, professed Simple Vows in 1975 and was ordained a priest in 1998. He is currently the guardian of the Wynnum fraternity and parish priest. The following autobiography was written in the mid-200's.
Hi! I am brother John Spiteri OFM Cap, I would like to share some of my life leading up to joining the Capuchins.
My father Michael and mother Lucy (now deceased) my eldest sister and I emigrated from Malta and arrived in Sydney, Australia in March 1954. On July 2nd 1954, our young sister Margaret was born and joined our family. At this time we lived at Narwee and Laura and I attended the catholic school Regina Caeli, conducted by the Josephite Sisters at Beverly Hills, Sydney.
Our early education was interrupted by our move to our new home to be at Fairfield Heights in the outer Western surburbs of Sydney in 1956. Laura and I were enrolled at St. Gertude's catholic school in Smithfield also conducted by the Josephite Sisters. Laura finished school early because of my father's constant sickness. Later she completed her high school education and went onto do Business Studies in which she excelled. At the end of third grade at Smithfield I was enrolled at Patrician Brothers in Fairfield. One event I remember clearly at this time of life was I had a dream. In this dream I saw myself in a church dressed in some garb and holding a chalice. I didn't take much notice of it. Two weeks later my grandfather Joseph Spiteri, who lived in Malta, wrote me a letter. In this letter he told me I had a dream and explained it to me. He told me that the Lord was going to call me to be a priest or a brother in the Franciscan order. He concluded his letter by saying, "That I will pray for you to St. Francis that the Lord will make you a good and holy brother or priest." I didn't tell anyone about the dream or the letter. Many years later my father told me about the letter and the dream and his words were, "Never give up on your dream it came from the Lord and you have nothing to fear."
My stay with the Patrician Brothers was a great time for me. I not only learnt to study but also came to know most of the Brothers in a different ways, not only as teachers but men of prayer, studies, sport and work. I was asked many times to help the brothers to do work after school or on the weekends. My mother once told me, "That I should ask them to give a bed at their place." Little did she know that her suggestion almost became a reality. On other occasions I had lunch with the Brothers and even shared prayers with them. They were for me and many other students at their schools models of what I perceived then and now "men of prayer and great strength." My association with the Brothers is still alive and active today.
After I left school at the ripe old age of 15 years I got a few jobs here and there but was not satisfied. I asked my father if he could find out if there were any vacancies at his place of work. He asked and within two weeks I had an interview with Mr. Herbet. T. Arnold who was the manager and owner of the firm in Paddington, NSW. My interview was successful and Mr. Arnold gave me some good advice, "Work hard listen to what you are told be honest in your work and be courteous to those above you and you will succeed in all your work." I began to put all his advice into action. I began work there two weeks later as an apprentice Building and Monumental Stonemason. He told me later that our work was an old profession not a trade and to be proud of that fact.
I learnt many skills during my apprenticeship in stonemasonary. I was taught how to use most of the complex and huge machines that we used on daily basis. I also spent time at our three quarries in Paddington, Lithgow and Mudgee. In these quarries I learnt how to cut huge blocks of stone and granite by means of explosives and other methods and then how to cut them into different sizes using conventional tools. By the time I finished my apprenticeship I was proficient in many areas of our profession. At this time the Vietnam War broke out. I wanted to join the Army and go overseas to fight. However, as an indentured apprentice I was legally bound to complete my term of five years, unless something happened that would legally terminate the condtions of employment. Instead I found out that I could join the Army reserves (Citizen Military Forces) which I did. Joining the CMF allowed me to continue my work and learn about the Army. After my initial traning I was assigned to the School of Signals at Lidcombe, NSW. At end my time with the CMF I was given an honourable discharge and I continued in my work.
Lawrie, one of my cousins joined the Patrician Bros Scholasticate and began to train and study to become a teaching Brother. Once I heard about Lawrie joining the Brothers, I began to visit him on regular basis and learnt a lot about relgious life as a Patrician Brother. As the visits increased to Lawrie so did my interest in religious life grew. I met the Scholastic Head Br. Dominic and we spoke many times about different things. On one occasion he asked me if I were interested in joining them, I told him not at moment.
One evening I went with Paul my best friend to a dance. We spied out the girls and then went into action. I met a girl named Anne. We seemed to hit it of well and I invited her for the next day's lunch that I was going to. From that day our friendship began to grow, it was an answer to my prayers to Our Lady and St. Joseph. However, as time went on I had a problem that was, I had an interest in religious life and now Anne came into the picture. I was one who discussed most things with my parents. I told them about Anne and they asked me to invite her to meet them. I did this they were very happy espeically my mother, who clearly had marriage in mind. My sisters had meet Anne on occasions when they came to visit our parents, they too liked her and hinted towards marriage. One thing that I did not anticpate was my father becoming seriously ill. In fact he was hosptialized for three months. During his stay in hospital he underwent two major operations. My father recovered after another month in hosptail and returned home.
One thing that I enjoyed doing was visiting my sister Margaret and her husband Wayne in Albury. On this occasion I drove to Albury on Thursday and stayed to see Margaret and stayed until Friday night. I drove back to Fairfield on Saturday morning to be home for the vigil Mass. I arrived safely and asked my father to wake me in time for Mass. He didn't and I spelt through until Sunday morning. When I awoke I saw the time and made it to the 9.00am Mass. I sat at the back and in front of me there was a young man dressed in Black and white clothes, he also wore crosses, which meant he was either a priest or brother. After Mass finished I went and started talking with him. I found out he was a Capuchin Student who lived and studied in Plumpton. So that afternoon I drove out to Plumpton. I eventually found the seminary and drove up this long driveway. I went into the front patio area and along came this man. I thought it was a gardner, I asked him if I could see someone in charge. He walked away and came back in few minutes dressed in a brown grab. I thought he looked familar it was the gardener. He introduced himself as Br. Phillip Nassens Ofm Cap. We spoke for a while and then he introduced me to Bro. Hugo and the Superior Br. Roland Dusick. We spoke and I asked them how would I go about joining the Order. Br. Phillip suggested I come back when the students returned from holidays in January next year. So I happily drove of but in the process of the visit to this seminary, I felt peaceful and decided to back and visit again.
Once again I spoke to my mother first about religiuos life and Anne as my father was back in hosptial. She encouraged me to continue to see Anne, I too was happy to do this. But the visits to Lawrie and now the capuchin seminary there was something else happening. That night mum and I visited my father in hosptial and I mentioned my visits to Lawrie and Anne and the capuchins. He was barely able to speak but told me that I should follow the idea of religious life. He said, "Don't worry about your mother and me the Lord will look after us, if He is calling you to become a brother or priest, follow that, because it is a higher calling. Marriage is good your mother and me are very happy, go and we give you our blessing." Not long after my father returned home and recovered fully and was back at work.
I continued to see Anne until I finally made up my mind and visited the capuchins once more. On that visit I spoke with Br. Joseph Oudeman (now an Auxilary bishop in Brisbane,) and I asked him how I would join the Order. He told me that he was about to ask me that same question. He gave me two forms and asked me to fill them out and return them to him. I did and then waited, it now October 72. In the meantime I spoke with Anne about everything and she was generous enough to see where I was going with this idea. In Novemeber I received a phone call from Br. Joseph and he told me that I was accepted into their Postulancy Programme for 1973 and that I would receive a letter from Fr. Patrick Ofm Cap, the Custos. I received the letter of acceptance about a fortnight later. I visited the Brothers at Fairfield and told them about me joining the Capcuhins and our parish priest, they were happy for me and promised me their prayers.
In February of 1973 I was about to have my final fling before joining the Capuchins. I was going to be the Best Man for my cousin Joe's wedding. He and I were very close and did alot of things together most of our young lives. After his wedding on the 24 of February I said goodbye to my cousins etc and drove home with my parents. The next day I was packed early, my father gave his blessing and told me, " Don't be ashamed if you want to come home again. The door is always open to you." My uncle Rennie drove me and my parents to Plumpton. We were welcomed by Br. Joseph and I was taken with my baggage to my new small room in St. Conrad's building. The next five months really proved my faith and my patience. It was hard learning and settling into a new lifestyle so different to anything I was used to. After many crisis calls in October, Br. Joseph called me into his office with Br.Phillip I sat down and Br. Joseph informed me that I was accepted into the Noviciate Programme for 1974. He told me that I had passed all the votations etc. I immediately rang my parents and told them the good news. I also wrote to Anne and informed her that I was accepted into the Noviciate Programme for 1974, clearly she wasn't happy. I explained everything to her and that was my last letter to her. A few years later I heard that she was married with a family.
I began the Noviciate with two other brothers Thomas and Jude. Both left a little later and I continued the year on my own. Fr. Carmel Flora was the Novice Master and Br. Bede Louzon was his assistant. I shared my classes with several novices sisters from other Religious Orders in the area. At the end of my noviciate I made my first vows in our small chapel in Plumpton in the presence of my family and our capuchin brothers. I had a weeks holiday at my parent's home and returned to the Seminary to begin my formation as a Capuchin Lay Brother. I remember Br. Phillip telliing me that a good capcuhin brother should be able to put his hadn toanyting. Thisis also the voice of the Capuchin Constitutions. Philllip was one of y greatest friens and models of a capuchin brother. He has since that time being ordained a priest and works back in the United States. So with Phillip I slowly did some studies with him and we worked together on many projects.
By the time I came for Solemn Profession I was able to do many of the jobs to help make seminary life run more smoothly. Some of my apostolates were, as a catechist and later a catechist teacher and formator. I prepared many of the children I was teaching in the State schools to receive the sacraments of Penance and First Holy Communion. I was appointed as Catechist co-ordinator for our region and co-ordinator for our parish pastoral care group in Plumpton. I also did parish visitatio and became involved in Adult education programming and teaching.
It was during my stay in our parish in Newtow, Adelaide, that I felt deeply inspired about the priesthood. Isought the advice of a priest who encourged me to consult with our community for their advise. Then I was dircted to write to our provinicial Minister who would help me todiscernmy calling to the priesthood. I remember how hard and fervently I prayed before I wrote that letter to the Provincial Minister for his approval. After eight weeks I received a letter from Br. Joseph Oudeman, he had accepted my request to study for ministry. I was older than most candidates and I had not completed any recent studies that would hold me in good stead to begin university studies. After a prayer time of many weeks I was able to take a no lose situation. That is, if I wasn't able to continue my studies for ministry than I would drop to the next level. In any case whatever studies I did would assist me in being a better and more effective member of our Order and assist me in the different apostolates that I would become invovled in as time went on.
After my acceptance for studies I was transfered to our Friary in Hawthorn, Victoria. I enrolled at Yarra Theological Union in Box Hill, which was about half an hour away by car on a good day. One thing that did frighten me was that YTU was a tough place to stay in. And that did not ease my anxities about starting these Theological Studies. However, I was firmly convinced that the Lord was calling me to do these studies and He would sustain me throughout them, until I was told to stop studies or stopped them of my own accord.
As I approached my final year of studies and my ordination in July of 1998, I still found it hard to believe just how much the Lord loves me and supported me. Mind you one thing I have not mentioned it was the immense support and prayers I received from our Capuchin Brothers throughout the Province and from my family and friends. Prayer was the great constant and still is in my life. Without prayer both communual and private I truly believe that a religious could not survive or live in peace in a religious community, never mind being ordianed a priest. To be called to religious life is an overwhelming expeirence and one can never repay the Lord for this free gift. Since I began my studies I also began to appreciate the importance and richness of twenty years of pastoral experience that I bring into the ministry of priesthood.
After my ordination I returned to Hawthorn to complete my studies and after completion I was transfered to our former house of studies in Wynnum, Brisbane. Since then I have been involved in different ministries in our Province. At the time of the writing I am a chaplain at an Aged Care Facility, Our Lady of Consolation. I live in our Friary at Plumpton and go to minister from there. I am also involoved in other ministries such as supply work, hearing confessions, giving short retreats and talks to different groups and I am the spiritual assistant to our Secular Franciscan Fraternity in Plumpton and in that same vein I am one of the spiritual assistants to our Regional Secular Franciscan Fraternity.