Society Matters | Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023

Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 6 Society Matters Br Vincent pursuing his love for mission in the Philippines When Brother Willy Vincent Iopam SVD grew up on Tanna Island in the southern islands of Vanuatu he never could have imagined he would not only travel to different countries as a missionary, but that one day he would serve on the provincial leadership team of the Divine Word Missionaries in the Philippines. Br Vincent grew up in a small community called Lamlu in the middle of Tanna Island. “Born to a non-Christian family, I got impressed by the Catholic faith in 1989 and later became Catholic at the age of 12, in my first year of high school,” he says. “That desire to become Catholic became obvious when I met the Marist Brothers who were then the pioneers of the mission in my community. “Since that moment my love for mission started, by the life and work of the brothers. Therefore, I asked my father if I could join the Catholic Church and he said yes and from then I became Catholic. “I thank God for the influence of the Marist Brothers and also my childhood friends who also convinced me to join the youth and eventually be baptised and confirmed to the faith.” Br Vincent says he first heard about the Divine Word Missionaries from Fr Olivier Noclam SVD (currently assigned to Santa Teresa in Central Australia) who is from the same community on Tanna Island. “Over the years after the encounter with the Marist Brothers and becoming Catholic, I pursued my studies to senior level in the capital city, Port Vila,” he says. “After grade 12, I found temporary jobs here and there just to survive until I met Fr Olivier’s group and his then Postulancy classmates in 1997 who had come to Vanuatu from Australia on a vocation promotion tour. “They visited me and convinced me to join the SVD in Australia. In 1998 I applied and was accepted to join in 1999 for the postulancy program in Marsfield, Sydney.” The following year the postulants were asked to move to Melbourne for a year of Theology and then returned to Sydney again in 2002 for the Novitiate. “After a year in Melbourne, I decided to leave for a year of discernment, but after that, I decided to come back and I’ve stayed ever since. “My vocation journey was not smooth, but I thank God for being there in those tough times and inspiring me to hold on to what I have become today. “I’m glad I joined the Australian Province. The community spirit of the seminarians and SVD confreres from all around the world was tough but, in a way, moulded me to be the missionary I am today. “The struggle some of us have gone through together was immense but the nourishing support in a multi-cultural community was very formative. We studied, ate, prayed, and lived together and I discovered that this was the real face of ‘SVDness’, one heart, many cultures.” Br Vincent says his love for ministry with the poor, started