A taonga from the Philippines is returning home after marking a major milestone as a man of the cloth. Fr Freddie Barte’s farewell Mass from Taranaki, coincided with reaching his 30-year anniversary serving communities and sharing his Catholic faith.
Fr Barte decided to join the priesthood when he was aged 12, and after ten years of study he was ordained a priest in 1991.
From the Tagum diocese in the Philippines, he has spent the past seven years as the parish priest based in Waitara, overseeing church services there and in Inglewood.
A special celebration to mark his three decades of vocation, and his departure, was held at Inglewood’s Sacred Heart Church on Saturday 24 April. More than 200 parishioners, including a large contingent from the Taranaki-based Filipino community, filled the church.
Hāwera-based Fr Craig Butler thanked Fr Barte for his contribution to the community and support he gave to other serving priests.
Fr Barte said he was ‘excited, but a little sad’ about leaving Taranaki to return home. He considered his priesthood ‘a gift’ and thanked his fellow priests, the parishioners and the wider community for accepting him with open arms.
Taranaki had been his seventh posting as a priest but his first international role. He said his biggest learning during his stay in the province was to ‘always take the time to listen and be friendly to everyone’.
Fr Barte said he especially found the Māori culture familiar as it was similar to how Filipino people lived, with the family at the centre of everything.
The 58-year-old is one of about 30 priests who serve across the Diocese of Palmerston North, which includes the Taranaki area.
Following Mass, lunch and entertainment for the congregation were held at the Inglewood Town Hall.
Fr Brian Carmine replaces Fr Barte as the Waitara-based parish priest.
“Hayaan ang Puso ni Hesus na mabuhay sa puso ng lahat.
May the Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all.”