Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Happy are those who die in the Lord. Since their good deeds go with them, they are in peace.” (Apocalypse 14:13)
Today we come to farewell a fine priest and a wonderful brother. Father Andrew Camilleri never lost the essential joy of the Gospel, was a gifted and enthusiastic friend, one who gave tremendous encouragement to colleagues and people alike.
He was the life of any party, the encourager and warm member of any group, highly loved and respected by his brother Maltese priests for his optimism and for the hope which he clearly demonstrated.
We are richer by his presence among us and I know at this time that the people of Saint Clare’s are feeling very strongly the sense of loss, which occurred suddenly on Our Lady’s birthday. The children of Saint Clare’s and Saint Catherine’s remember him with great affection.
Father Andrew’s passing reminds us of that we are on a journey here and our destiny is to be with God and be with Mary, whom Father Andrew loved so much, in our true homeland in heaven. Father Andrew by his goodness sought to show to people the need to keep desiring and working for that homeland.
Andrew Camilleri, the son of Karmel and Katherine, was born at Luqa, Malta, on 3rd March 1947. After primary education in that town he attended Xavier College in Dingli and the Insrem Religious Institute in Malta. He then entered the Salesians and spent six years in the Seminary, being ordained as a Salesian priest by the legendary Archbishop Joseph Mercieca at Saint John’s Cathedral, Valletta, on 7th August 1981. Before he joined the Salesians he had worked in a textile factory for ten years and had private lessons to acquire academic knowledge.
During his eighteen years as a Salesian he spent two years in charge of a youth club, then taught in a boarding school and for five years was Administrator of Saint Patrick’s Salesian School, Sliema, Malta. By pure coincidence in 1982 he spent three months in North Altona parish as a visitor and apparently liked it very much. When his mother died in 1990 he wrote to Archbishop Little and was accepted to serve in the Archdiocese, on trial first for twelve months. At that time his brother was living in North Altona, an uncle in Altona Meadows and many cousins also.
Here in Melbourne Father Andrew was Assistant in Hoppers Crossing, North Fawkner, and then Administrator of Thomastown West on 10th August 2005 before becoming Parish Priest in April 2006. It was my privilege to be here for his installation as Pastor on 30th June 2006 and I believe that the people of West Thomastown have never been disappointed.
He was faithful to the Mass and the Sacraments, to the sick and elderly. He was a pastor who lived among his people and showed them true love and compassion, encouraging the life of the community. He was a brother to so many other Maltese priests and encouraged them in priestly gatherings where he was slightly larger than life, matching his physical stature, but always a joyful and hope-filled participant. As one grave author wrote recently he remained always a generous, loving Maltese priest, who created the sense of a village or community by his fidelity and pastoral kindness.
The Salesian spirit of welcome and acceptance, of encouragement, hope and joy are gifts which always accompanied him, even in times when his health was less than robust. He will be very sadly missed, but I know that we all feel richly privileged because of all that he has done. In my mind are vignettes of his friendship, his encouragement of parishioners and school children alike, his enjoying social occasions where priests and laity mixed in great fraternity and his readiness to give a lead in welcoming and understanding people.
I do thank God for Father Andrew Camilleri and for those who first welcomed him into the Archdiocese; Father Dom Di Giorgio being particularly one. Obviously that first visit in 1982 was a great opportunity for him which he sought to fulfil when he returned after his mother’s death. And so for him we can say ‘well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord’.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.