From the streets of Paola to the corridors of the Curia
Mgr Anton Gouder was parish priest in Paola when a young deacon with a good sense of humour was assigned pastoral work under his wing.
It was June 1984 and the European Cup finals were soon to start in France. Mgr Gouder headed a team of 14 priests and the deacon from Lija, Charles Scicluna, had to integrate with the clergy and settle down in a large community.
“He integrated well and I trusted him with the preparatory meetings for parents of children who were going to receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and confirmation,” Mgr Gouder says.
The young seminarian had a full year ahead of him before taking his vows as a priest. He spent 12 months at the Paola parish.
Mgr Gouder recalls him as “intelligent and practical with a good sense of humour”. Charles was also a good communicator, who prepared well for his homilies.
“He delivered beautiful and short homilies,” Mgr Gouder says of the man, who 28 years later was to be ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Malta.
Mgr Gouder is pro-vicar of the Church and the Archbishop’s right-hand man. He now shares offices at the Curia with Mgr Scicluna.
The change comes at a critical juncture for the Maltese Church that was heavily bruised last year when people overwhelmingly supported the introduction of divorce.
Mgr Gouder speaks highly of the contribution Mgr Charles Scicluna will bring to the Maltese Church in his new role.
“It is enriching for the [Maltese] Church to have somebody with experience of the universal Church like Mgr Scicluna within its fold. It is a great opening,” he says.
But it is not just the 17 years of work experience, mostly in the difficult field of child abuse that Mgr Scicluna brings to the Church. He is also a spiritual person, Mgr Gouder adds. “He loves the Church.”