Meet Our Priests
Fr. Donal – Assistant Priest
Fr. Donal Sweeney was born and grew up in County Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland. He joined the Capuchin Order in 1990 at the age of nineteen. After completing his studies and spending some years as a lay brother, he was ordained to the priesthood in 2003. For the next ten years he ministered in various parts of Ireland. In 2013 he came to Cape Town and was appointed assistant priest here at Parow.
Fr. Sonny – Parish Priest
“The Lord called me”
I was born on the 20th August 1973, to a poor fisherman’s family in Uttan, Mumbai, India, I was the fifth-born of seven children.
I completed my school studies in St. Joseph Anglo Indian School in Uttan. As a growing child, I was an Altar Server in my parish church, called Our Lady of Sea, Uttan. I was also a member of the parish choir.
Being born as part of a fisherman’s family, my childhood days were days of hard work and yet, up to Standard Nine, I came first in class every year! I know that I was very much loved and appreciated by my teachers and friends. Father James D’Silva, my school principal, who was a Diocesan priest, was a huge source of inspiration to me – the way he mixed with students, played with us on the playground and worked with us in the school’s paddy fields. I almost made a picture of him in my mind, to copy him in my life. That is, the passion he had for the priestly vocation, to be with young people, to work with people, to work for God and for His people. For me, my true destiny started from these school days.
I passed my Matric with First Class and registered to study at the College for Sciences. However, my heart was not in it. My heart was somewhere else! Having to get up at 5am every morning, catch a bus then a train and again a bus became part of my daily routine as I travelled from Uttan to Vasai Papdi. Despite having being schooled in Marathi, the language of my village, I now had to cope with the difficult language of English – and its many rules. The huge adjustment, the difficulties in understanding the language of teaching took its toll and I experienced many health problems. Despite passing this first year, my Mom was in agreement with me that perhaps I should de-register.
My Dad was happy about this because he had bought a new boat. We now owned our very own boat and my Dad wanted me to join him in fishing! But, God had some other plan! He wanted to make me a “Fisher of men” and not necessarily a “Fisher of fish”! When the sisters at the convent heard that I had left studying they were most concerned – their pupil, who had always come first in class, their success story, who had gone off to study further to now become a fisherman!! They did not understand this mystery! I had explained my difficulties to them and also the fact that my Dad was so happy to have me at home and that he even bought a brand new boat so that I could support him in his fishing venture. They would not give up on the fact that I should be studying further and the suggestion was that I should register at the College for Commerce which was in my home village. Who was going to explain this to my Dad? My Dad was relying on me! Well, God has His own ways!
The courageous sisters did not give up and one day our Parish Priest came to visit my Dad. Believe me or not, my parish priest came to request my Dad to allow me to study and to rather manage the boat with his other sons. For my Dad, having the priest request something was like hearing the voice of God! Being obedient to God, my Dad allowed me to go to College to undertake studies in Commerce.
Once again, I was achieving first place in this newly started College. Then, I started pondering about my life thus far. I could see God’s hand behind all the events that led up to this point in my life. How did the Sisters get to know the details of what was happening in my life? Why did our Parish Priest feel that this was important enough to purposefully place a special request to my Dad? How could my Dad agree so easily? Many more questions… I realised that the answer was that this was God’s doing and He was “doing” with purpose!
I expressed my wish to my mother that I wanted to become a priest and she said that she would pass on the message to my Dad. After lots of discussion and warnings, my Dad allowed me to walk my way of life.
So in 1993, I left my home. I underwent my Year of Discernment in Goa, followed by a two year spiritual journey in obtaining my Novitiate and my Postulancy in Mangalore. I completed a three year course in Philosophy in Bangalore and a one year community experience in Latur. After three and half years of Theology in Mysore and six months of Diaconate in Manori parish, I was Ordained on 23rd of April 2004. In 2014 I completed 10 years of Priesthood.
Life and its journey has not been easy for me but one thing has stood firm throughout my difficult times – God was paving the way for me. He, who called me, He, who could see my heart and its intentions, He, who has never let me down.
So, to all “Fishers of Men” and “Fishermen” – never give up when times do not seem right………… because ….. He knows how to change the times!