Joe and Mary Micallef are retired farmers and enjoy the peace and joy of life surrounded by their children and grandchildren. At age 83, Joe still goes for a two-hour-walk most mornings, and it is during this time that he thinks and reflects on his faith, and how it has guided him through life. At age 16, Joe stepped off a boat and onto Australian shores with big dreams and high hopes. It was 1954, and he had left war-torn Malta to find work and a better life. In 1961, Joe moved to Mingoola near Tenterfield to take up tobacco farming, and quickly integrated with the predominantly Italian Catholic community. It was hard work, but it was a good life.
“I was an altar boy in Malta and even on the boat when I was coming to Australia. That continued when I got to Queensland,” Joe said. In 1963, Joe went on holiday to Malta, where he met and married Mary. “Malta was a British colony, so I had learned to speak English in school,” Mary said. “Then, when I got to Australia, I had to learn Italian, because that was the language most of the people in Tenterfield and Texas spoke!”
Today, Joe and Mary attend Mass at Zillmere parish. For them, the Catholic Church has been a constant in a life with many changes. Joe reflects that “the street we lived on had three Catholic churches on it – one on each corner, and one in the middle! There were as many priests as were needed in those days. Not like now, when there are not as many.”
That is why they give donations to support Holy Spirit Seminary. “When we received the information asking us to support the Seminary, back in 1988, I knew we had to make a donation and we have been doing it ever since. Without priests, there can be no Church,” said Mary. “We raised our children in the Catholic faith and it is up to us, the faithful, to be guardians of our faith for future generations.”
“My mum left money in her Will when she passed, and I will do the same. We made sure there is enough for our children, then wrote in a gift to the Church. When the time comes, we know our Church family will be taken care of as well.”