Father and son to be ordained as priests – Man told his wife of his wish on her death bed
It is a story which is probably without precedent in the history of the Maltese church as a father and son are both preparing to enter the priesthood. Tony Pace is studying to become a diocesan priest and his son is a novice with St Paul’s Missionary Society.
Born in Gudja, Tony Pace is 64. He was widowed four years ago when his wife, Joan, died of cancer. The couple, who were both teachers, lived in Safi after they got married. Tony describes Joan is a very strong spiritual woman, who despite the terrible disease she had to endure, was always full of courage and inspiration. He describes how, 24 hours before she died, she called her loved ones together. She started with her three children: Pauline, David and Deborah.
“She said goodbye very calmly, she amazed me, that moment felt very sacred to me,” Tony says. “Then it was my turn. She told me, “Tony I want you to get married again.’ To be honest I was startled, and when one is startled one tends to just say the first thing which comes into one’s head. The first thing I told her was, ‘Joan don’t you know me by now? Don’t you know I only make the same mistake once?’ But honestly I said that because I could not think of anything else to say. Then I told her, “Listen, I want to enter the priesthood’. And once I said it, I could not get the thought of becoming a priest out of my mind “.
We met Tony at the Virtù seminary. He is in the second year of his vocational formation in a course which will take four years. We asked him how he felt this call to enter the priesthood and he spoke of the many years during which he was involved with the Society of Christian Doctrine (M.U.S.E.U.M.) of which he was an active member until the age of 24. He said that he was the same with his family; once he got married, he dedicated all his time to them. In fact, together with his wife Joan, they were very involved in voluntary work in the field of education outside of schools hours within the Safi parish, where Tony used to lead a choir.
He says it was providence which put him in touch with the Safi parish priest, Fr David Farrugia, with whom he spoke about his vocation. “He carried out the necessary contacts for me, I went through the initial screening process, and in May 2015, I received the go ahead that I can start the formation course to enter the priesthood.”
Meanwhile, his three children had reached adulthood. One of his sons is also entering the priesthood. He has finished his novitiate in the Philippines with the St Paul’s Missionary Society. His two daughters still live at home, with one of them about to get married in a few months. Tony feels his children have accepted his decision as they were used to their parents being active outside the family. “The children have seen this as a continuation of how we have always lived.”
Tony still lives at home with his children and goes to the Seminary for meetings according to the programme created for him by the Rector,, Dun Albert Buhagiar. During the week he attends University as part of his formation course, reading for a degree in Theology. In Safi he is still helping out with various work in the parish.