The life of Dr Joe Pereira and the consultation for the Synod of Bishops

By Deacon Michael Tan, 16 January 2022
Parishioners are seen during the Diocese of Parramatta Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


What is truth?  We will meet that question again in the lead up to Holy Week, but this morning’s readings call us to reflect on this question, as we continue to engage with the consultation process for the Synod of bishops on becoming a synodal church, a church that expresses its life in terms of our call to communion, participation and mission.

It may be helpful to consider the words found in the 1st letter of John in this regard – “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, And we have seen it and testify to it, and we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us (Jn. 1:1-4)

The first letter of John witnesses to the truthfulness of our Gospel reading this morning, that “The word was made flesh, and lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Truth is personal and real, not abstract or academic.  Truth is best experienced and taught in families, especially the Holy Family, and in our own families, where we are called to become the domestic church within our families.  Truth does not deny sorrow in the midst of joy and celebration.

Truth is Jesus, the word made vulnerable flesh, born into a Holy Family, and dwelt with Mary, the mother of God and Joseph, his guardian.

There is another Joseph that I would like to introduce to you today.  Dr. Joseph Pereira was a Public Health Physician and GP, who died earlier this month, and whose funeral was just a few days ago.  His life gives witness to the Synod of bishops’ call to communion, participation and mission.

Dr. Joe and his wife, faithful and practising Catholics, are originally from Burma, or what we call Myanmar today.    He was awarded the Australia Day Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his work with Burmese refugees over many, many years.  In that time, together with his wife, he also brought up a family, his domestic church.  Together with, and in communion with his wife, he has exercised exemplary servant leadership of his family, his domestic church, while running a busy professional medical practice.  His commitment to being with the sick in his work, in walking with the displaced refugees in his community involvement and in bringing up his family, the domestic church witnesses to the communion that we are called to by the Synod of bishops.

This juggling of his involvement with the Myanmar refugee community, his professional practice and the demands of bringing up his family is also his response to the call to participate in the life of the Church in the modern world.   Like Dr. Joe, we are called in our busyness to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel with our lives, as we seek to participate in making real and present Jesus, the Word made flesh in the modern world.  It is in Jesus that we participate in making a real difference for others,  whether at work, in our community or in our families. This is an example of the witness of participation that the Synod of bishops calls us to.

The work is never done – the situation in Myanmar is still violent and oppressive, especially since the military takeover in February this year, when the legally elected President was deposed, and imprisoned.  In fact, Cardinal Bo from Myanmar in his Christmas message[1] has emphasised that there can be no durable peace in Myanmar without justice and healing of historical injustices.

As we come to the end of the year of St. Joseph, let us, like Dr. Joe, continue to walk with the vulnerable, the marginalised around us in responding to the call of the Synod of bishops’ to mission for us, the People of God, a mission founded on the love of Jesus for the outcast, the marginalised, the refugees displaced from their homes through no fault of theirs.

Let us also remember the sorrow of his family at his passing, as we rejoice and celebrate his life of witness to the Word made flesh, a witness of communion, participation and mission that has brought hope to the many refugee people that his life has touched.

Let us then walk humbly and tenderly with the infant Jesus this Christmas, who in his humility became weak and vulnerable for our sake, and who in his vulnerability shows us the way to peace this Christmas.

Let us remember the words of Isaiah in the first reading – How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation, and tells Zion, ‘our God is king!’


And may our prayer be one of rejoicing, as our response to the psalm proclaims,

All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God


[1] Cardinal Bo reiterates Call for Peace in Myanmar in Advent message by Lisa Zengarini 21 December 2021, Vatican News and republished in Catholic Outlook


This homily was preached by Deacon Michael Tan during the 2021 Christmas liturgy at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst. Deacon Michael Tan is a member of the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta and serves the parish community of St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst.


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