As a former student of Sydney Catholic Schools, the self-confessed “cheeky kid” with a voice like an angel was deliberating between a career as an educator or a musician or both until an unexpected event completely changed his career path.
Spotted by talent scouts in Year 4 at St Raphael’s at South Hurstville, he joined St Mary’s Cathedral College as a chorister where he stayed until he entered the seminary 12 years later.
Throughout his high school years, he was often told he would make a good priest which he laughed off politely saying “thanks but no thanks”.
It wasn’t until he stumbled on the UNSW chaplaincy couch while looking for somewhere to rest in between lectures that he began to think about a vocation and ultimately become part of the furniture in God’s House.
“I must admit I do like my catnaps and found the chaplaincy had a great lounge which was the perfect place for me to have a break in between classes,” he laughed.
“The guys would ask ‘who is that guy that keeps crashing here’ but as I got to know them I was so inspired by them, they had a really vibrant, dynamic presence on campus which I wanted to be a part of.
“I never grew up in youth groups and thought they would be all about jumping for Jesus so wasn’t that keen to join but when I did I was really surprised, they all seemed so normal.
“And the more involved I got the more I wanted it.”
Roberto graduated with a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of music but something inside of him wanted more.
“AS SOON AS I ENTERED THE GROUNDS I KNEW I WAS HOME, IT WAS WHERE I WAS MEANT TO BE”
He said God started to talk to him about the priesthood and just as importantly he started to listen.
“If I try the seminary out and it’s for me great, if it’s not for me I can tick it off the list forever and find a beautiful girl and have lots of kids.
“It just turned out it was for me and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere that could make me happier.
“As soon as I entered the grounds I knew I was home, it was where I was meant to be.”
Throughout his discernment, Deacon Roberto has discovered his greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness and said his voice is something he has come to use with greater care.
Guided by his favourite Saint, St Joseph, from whom there are no words in the Bible, he said he has discovered you don’t have to be loud to be heard.
“St Joseph achieved such great things from the background and that’s somewhere I aspire to be,” he said.
“AT THE END OF THE DAY ALL I WANT TO DO IS HELP PEOPLE GET TO HEAVEN, THAT IS WHAT I AM CALLED TO DO AND MAKES ME VERY HAPPY.”
“I learned some great lessons from some of the Vietnamese seminarians in particular at the seminary who are very gentle and achieve great things. I am loud and very cheeky which was something I’ve had to address.
“Although at the end of the day all I want to do is help people get to Heaven, that is what I am called to do and makes me very happy.”