Priest’s call took its time

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Father Edwin Ocho has joined the Manjimup and Pemberton communities from Bunbury and is now the St Joseph's parish Priest.
Camera IconFather Edwin Ocho has joined the Manjimup and Pemberton communities from Bunbury and is now the St Joseph's parish Priest. Credit: Tari Jeffers

His decision to become a priest took some time but Manjimup and Pemberton St Joseph’s parish’s new Father said the final word was his.

Father Edwin Ocho moved from Bunbury to the Lower South West about six weeks ago to take up his role as the parish’s Catholic priest.

Born in the Philippines, Father Ocho said he was “set aside” early in life for the Church.

“In the Philippines there was a tradition — there still is, in some parts — that each family should offer one child for the religious life, be it as a priest or a nun,” he said.

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“I was offered to be one but I rebelled in the idea that I was offered at first.

“I decided to join the seminary when I was in college, I was studying engineering by then.”

After joining the seminary the first time, he left and then decided to come back.

“All along, the call was there,” Father Ocho said.

Father Ocho had been in Bunbury for nine years and before that he was in Busselton and Perth.

While he described himself as introverted, Father Ocho said it was being with people that he loved most about his job.

“Being with people gives me life and affirms my vocation,” he said.

“Given my own choice, I like to be alone in my room but being with people gives me new life.”

While in Bunbury, Father Ocho was a chaplain at Bunbury Catholic College “for the longest time” and he said he looked forward to working with the Kearnan College and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School communities.

Father Ocho said students were inquisitive and creative about religion and asked questions he himself — when he was a child — would never have thought to ask.

Questions from students included how much he was paid and how culture and religion combined in the Philippines.

“Where I came from, culture and religion was one and the same, two sides of the same coin,” Father Ocho said. “You practised your religion because that was your culture and you practised your culture because religion was attached to it.

“But here, that’s not the case.”

Father Ocho said while religion and culture could sometimes overlap here in Australia, more often than not, the two were separated.

Only six weeks since moving to the region, Father Ocho said he already felt welcome in the community.

“Country people are more welcoming,” he said.

“People are telling me that if I want something, just ask. People are so kind.”

In discussing religion itself, Father said it was his way of life that defined his way of seeing things, morality-wise.

“I could define religion in a theological sense, but for me, practically, it’s how I respond to the world and particular situations,” he said.

“My faith keeps me going, giving me strength, in a sense.”

Looking forward, Father Ocho said he hoped to get the message across to students to be the best person they could possibly be.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks, as in witnessing to their faith,” he said.

“That’s faith, not just in an institutionalised religion, but faith in humanity.

“That’s good enough for God, that’s absolutely pleasing to God.”

Father Ocho said he was looking forward to getting to know the community, not just the Catholic community but the wider community and other Ministers from other Churches.

“I’m also looking forward to knowing the history of Manjimup and Pemberton,” he said.

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