• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Wednesday, 28 August 2019 12:25

German missionary arrives from Rome to join AUS Province


Fr Stephan Gerdes SVD 550After nearly a decade holding the purse-strings of the SVD across the world, Fr Stephan Gerdes SVD has arrived in the AUS Province, ready for God to reveal his new mission assignment.

Fr Stephan, who was born and raised in Germany, has been Treasurer-General of the Society of the Divine Word, based in Rome since 2010 and before that was a missionary to Papua New Guinea.

Born in 1965, he grew up in a farming area near the Dutch border with his parents and three brothers.

A childhood job distributing SVD publications around his local village planted the seed of a missionary vocation and he joined the Society in 1985, after completing his compulsory army service.

“While I was in the army, I went to a SVD house for a weekend and it really impressed me a lot – the life, the community, really impressed me and I decided to join rather than pursue a career in IT, which I had been doing,” he says.

He spent the first six months in the Steyl Mother House and found that he loved it. After studying two years of Philosophy and three years of Theology, he undertook a two year pastoral experience in Papua New Guinea as part of the Overseas Training Program.

“I spent two years in a parish in Wewak in the East Sepik Province,” he says.

“I loved it very much. Of course it was a very different place, a very different culture – I mean, coming from Germany, PNG was a different world, but by the second year I really started loving it.”

He returned to Germany after the two years to complete his Theological studies at St Augustine’s Seminary, making his final vows in 1994 and being ordained to the priesthood in 1995.

After he was ordained, Fr Stephan was once again assigned to PNG.

“In my first year they sent me to a swamp in the Sepik area,” he says. “It was physically challenging and hard but pastorally it was good, working with the people. I really enjoyed it.

“On the Sepik, you basically work on your boat on the river. You’re constantly on the move and every night you put up your mosquito net to sleep. There are so many mosquitos.”

After one year Fr Stephan was appointed Parish Priest at a parish in the same diocese and spent two years there.

“It was the same parish where I had done my OTP all those years before and so everybody knew me and I knew them. I had a very good time at that parish. I really loved it.

“The people were good, the pastoral work was fulfilling. I learnt a lot from the people.”

Despite being happy in his parish work, Fr Stephan responded to a call from the Provincial for somebody to take on the job of provincial treasurer in PNG.

He completed a Diploma in Accounting and Business Management at Divine Word University in Madang and was the Provincial Treasurer for nine years until the end of 2009, also doing weekend parish work and prison ministry.

“I was happy in that work, but then in 2008, the Superior-General called me and asked me to go to Rome to take on the role of Treasurer-General, because the fellow who was in the position was very ill,” he says.

After training another confrere to take on his duties in PNG, Fr Stephan moved to Rome in January 2010 and took over the Treasurer-General duties in May 2010.

“The first two or three years were rough, they weren’t easy,” he says. “Everything was new to me. The work was completely different to what I’d been doing at provincial level. In Rome, you have less to do with finances than with funds,” he says.

“It’s about analysing financial statements from the various provinces and going through budgets to prepare for the three annual distributions of funds to various projects around the world.

“The Treasurer recommends to the General Council which projects can be supported and which cannot. It was good work, but there were hard decisions to be made because you could say that all the projects which came to Rome for approval were good projects, but we were only able to fund about sixty to seventy per cent of them. You can only spend what you have.”

Fr Stephan was reappointed in 2012 for a six year term, which concluded last year after the General Chapter. He was reappointed Treasurer-General until the end of April 2019 so that his successor could be prepared to take over his position. On May 1 of this year Fr Stephan received his new assignment to the AUS Province.

“I would’ve loved to have gone back to PNG, which is my first love, but one of the things that crossed it off the list for me is the Malaria. I had Malaria at least twice a year while I was in PNG,” he says.

“And I’ve always loved Australia. I always felt a bit at home here in Australia when I would pass through while I was in PNG, so I am very happy to be here.”

Since his arrival, Fr Stephan is spending his time visiting all the different districts of the AUS Province, while awaiting his ministry appointment when the new provincial administration takes effect in January.

He says he is happy to leave his new assignment in God’s hand, and says when he looks back over his missionary life, he sees God’s action in his life.

“Sometimes when you are given certain assignments out of the blue, you think ‘What on earth is this now?’ But in the end you always see God’s hand in it. He always made things good with me so far.”


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