NEWS The Maltese community in Melbourne, Australia is mourning the passing away of Fr Joseph Briffa, affectionately known as Fr Joe, and a prominent member of the Maltese clergy in Melbourne. He passed away on Wednesday 4 March 2015 at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, aged 85 years.
A Pontifical Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of Rev. Fr. Joseph Briffa PE will be offered at Church of Good Shepherd, South Circular Road, Gladstone Park on WEDNESDAY (Mar. 11, 2015) at 1.30 pm. Burial will take place in the Priests’ Crypt, Melbourne General Cemetery, College Crescent, Parkville.
In a circular letter announcing Fr Briffa’s passing away, Monsignor Greg Bennet Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne outlined the many achievements in his religious life.
The following is reproduced from the Vicar General’s letter:
Fr Briffa was born in Birkirkara, Malta, on 16 December 1929. Following his primary and secondary education, he entered the National Seminary in Malta in 1951. In December 1952 he chose to go to India with Fr Mizzi OFM Cap commencing his studies in philosophy in 1952 at St Joseph’s Allahabad. Upon completion of his philosophical studies, he enjoyed an experience working in Mission stations. In 1955 he entered St Albert’s College Ranehi in Bihar State for his studies in theology.
On 3 December 1958 he was ordained at St Joseph’s Cahedral in Bankipur in the Diocese of Patna, India. He was appointed to various Mission stations and parishes. Among his many works was the establishment of a credit union to assist his people from the hands of money lenders. He enjoyed his missionary work often among the most marginalised people.
Fr Joe was a gifted linguist; Latin, Hindi, Santhali and Buchpuri among some of the languages he learned with great flair.
In 1962 he volunteered to work among the people on the border between India and Bangladesh. He was appointed Dean of the Cathedral in the Diocese of Patna.
The missionary zeal captured Fr Joe. It was through Bishop Wildermuth, who was friendly with Archbishop Knox, who had previously been Nuncio to India, that the opportunity to come to Melbourne opened.
Coming to Melbourne on 12 October 1971, Fr Joe had arrived at his final destination. He had no aspirations of being a Parish Priest, so was pleased to be appointed Assistant Priest in Ascot Vale (1971), Hadfield (1974), Hastings (1976), Parkville (1978), Newport (1984), Thomastown West (1986), Carlton as Chaplain to Royal Melbourne and Royal Womens’ Hospitals, Altona North (1989), Hoppers Crossing (1994) and his final appointment at Good Shepherd, Gladstone Park.
Retiring in 2002 as Pastor Emeritus, Fr Briffa enjoyed his time at George Maher House, Justin Villa and, more recently, at St Catherine’s, Balwyn. He lived a simple life, enjoying the opportunity for prayer and reflection, creating his model churches and the company of others.
Fr Briffa was a kind and generous priest. Many of his acts of kindness would be known to few. He gave and never asked for anything in return. He was humble in his service of the God he loved and wished to serve with such devotion.
His story of life and priesthood was one of adventure. In leaving the shores of Malta in 1951 that he dared to embark on a life of missionary service which blessed the lives of so many people. In coming to Melbourne, he became a brother priest to us. He appreciated very much the friendships which he forged. In recent years he contemplated the journey of his life, and reflected the words of T. S. Elliott, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where the journey started and know the place for the first time.” The journey is complete, his exploration is over, may Fr Joe know of the eternal love of God who accompanied him throughout his life.
May he rest in peace!