Society Matters | Volume 34 No. 1 | Autumn 2024

3 Volume 34 No. 1 | Autumn 2024 Society Matters Migration, human rights, environment - key priorities for new JPIC Coordinator Missionaries are well known for their willingness to live and serve in a variety of countries, and none more so than Fr Jun Perez SVD, who has arrived in Australia after missionary assignments which have taken him from Russia to Africa, South Korea and Thailand. Fr Jun was born in the Philippines in 1967 and joined the SVD in June 1994, taking his first vows in 1997 and his final vows in 2001, and being ordained to the priesthood later that year. His first missionary assignment was to Russia. Arriving in 2002, he went to St Petersburg to learn the language and also worked in a parish providing ministry to migrants. After a year in St Petersburg, Jun was transferred to a parish in Moscow, working with migrant communities from Asia, Africa, Europe and America, before next being assigned to Siberia. “I learnt a lot during that time,” he says. “Especially adjusting from one culture to another. Coming from the Philippines, the winters were a real shock, at minus 35 degrees Celsius. That took some getting used to.” While in Siberia, he saw the SVD had a vacancy in Liberia, Africa, which was just emerging from 13 years of civil war. “I prayed about it and decided to go,” he says. This time, Fr Jun was heading to a tropical climate, to work as Program Director with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), helping with the distribution of food under the World Food Program. He contracted Malaria seven times in a year and one of those cases, of cerebral malaria, was almost fatal, but after recovering, Jun continued his ministry in Liberia. From Liberia, Fr Jun spent 10 years, from 2007-2017, in South Korea, working in an SVD migrant chaplaincy centre. In 2017, it was back to Africa, taking up a new assignment with JRS in Malawi as Pastoral Office Coordinator, which involved sacramental ministry as well as responsibility for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC). Fr Jun was preparing to take up a new assignment in Latin America in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and international borders closed, leaving him back home in the Philippines for 15 months. “It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because when travel was allowed again I was asked to go to Bangkok to again work with JRS in caring for refugees from Asia as a psycho-social counsellor,” he says. While working in Thailand, which is part of the SVD Australia Province, Fr Jun was asked by Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD, to move to Australia to take up the role of JPIC Coordinator for the Province. Fr Jun says he is looking forward to his new assignment, which he sees as a ministry of hope, supporting all the confreres in the Province in the work they are already doing in these areas. “The first thing I will be doing is meeting the confreres and listening and learning about their ministry and about the people they are serving, whether that be in Indigenous communities or multicultural parishes here in Australia, as well as the ministries in New Zealand, Thailand and Myanmar,” he says. “And I will be focusing on the three main areas of concern raised at the SVD’s ASPAC JPIC Assembly in Bangkok in July – migration, human rights and environment. “As well as supporting the confreres in the work they are doing and in mobilising their communities to be part of the JPIC mission, I’m looking forward to networking and working collaboratively with other Non-Government Organisations, and also working to promote awareness of the issues.”