Fr Robert Bossini, the much loved Dean and Parish Priest of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, celebrated a major milestone on 11 July 2017 – 30 years since his priestly ordination.
“If I could do it again, I would,” he told Catholic Outlook with a smile.
Fr Bob, as he is affectionately known, has a clear love for education and spiritual direction. For many years he taught Religious Education in schools and currently has about half a dozen spiritual directees.
He received formal training in each area, most recently undertaking a four-year course in spiritual direction.
“I always wanted to do it,” he said.
Fr Bob encourages everyone to receive some spiritual direction, which is a positive experience and “not about solving issues or counselling,” he said.
Rather, it is about “discerning the spirit and the fruits of the spirit,” asking “Where’s God in my life? Where’s He leading me?” he said.
God’s providence has taken Fr Bob on some dramatic journeys.
Fr Bob was born in Egypt to a family of Maltese and Italian background, who were evacuated during the Suez Canal Crisis.
They spent time in Cyprus, England and then settled in Australia, where there were other family members.
“We lived in Merrylands and joined the parish there.”
“The priests there were terrific and they gave inspiration to join the priesthood.”
Priests at St Margaret Mary’s Parish who inspired Fr Bob in his youth included Fr Lou Tosi, Fr Zvonimir Gavranovic, Fr Rod Bray, Fr John Kerrisk and Fr Peter Humphries.
Fr Bob started formation in 1974 at St Columba’s College in Springwood, the former Minor Seminary.
The majority of his class were ordained, including Fr Brian Lucas and Fr Gerard Kelly.
Fr Bob wishes he had studied with a greater understanding of the practical importance of the seminary’s seven years of theological and philosophical studies. He notes the every day importance of the theology of marriage in his parish work.
“More time in a parish before starting the seminary would have been good,” he said.
Today Fr Bob continues to live an inspiring vision of the priesthood as spiritual father and looks to St John Bosco and St Francis de Sales as heavenly models of this ministry.
St Francis de Sales was a French Bishop, proclaimed Doctor of the Church for his profound writings on the spiritual life.
“There was a real joy in his case of presenting the faith,” Fr Bob said.
St Francis advocated prayer be adapted to people’s lives and specific vocation, whether marriage, priesthood, religious or single life.
One form of prayer that he suggests is “an hour each day before the Blessed Sacrament and weekly, especially Fridays before the Crucifix,” Fr Bob said. These are ways to know God’s love.
The educator St John Bosco had profound love and care for abandoned youths, beginning his Oratories for orphans in Turin.
“Don Bosco was revolutionary at the time. There wasn’t corporal punishment in his Oratories,” Fr Bob said.
St John Bosco’s philosophy was guided by the principles of “reason, religion and loving kindness,” Fr Bob said.
God was always with them in their ministry to others, he said.
“Presence was an important aspect of John Bosco’s education and spirituality. It was a type of accompaniment with a person: being with them would bring out the best in them and not allow them to move into sin,” Fr Bob said.
Fr Bob’s advice to those discerning a vocation is “Be open to God’s calling. Be open to investigate.”
“I can’t remember a time I’ve regretted it.”
“It’s a beautiful life.”