I got to know Rene back before he ordained as a priest, when we both attended vocational live-ins at the Seminary. His permanent smile and optimism always characterized him, and his words of courage to those going through difficult times, and even when his own father tragically died, will remain a shining example of strength and empathy.
We worked together again during his one-year experience at our parish in Gudja, during his diaconate, where he was very present in our youth groups.
He was in Gudja again just a year ago for the JChallenge activity, an activity where we brought together different youth and voluntary groups from across the country to celebrate voluntary work. He gave his input, guided us with his ideas, and celebrated mass with us during the event.
I still remember him, during that event, asking if I was contesting the elections. I remember telling him that no, it wasn't on my mind and I didn't have time for it. He encouraged me to.
Eight months later I was asked to do it, and I ended up saying 'yes'.
When he started serving his pastoral duties in Zejtun, we often ended up going to his Sunday evening youth mass. Just a few weeks ago we met there again, he wished me luck, and with his usual smile, reminded me how he had been right.
Yesterday we had decided that today we'd go for his usual mass. This morning the news of his departure hit us like lightning. But we still went, knowing that he wouldn't be there.
We went, we didn't see him, but he was there.
He was there in the enthusiasm and energy with which he had transmitted his experience and love of Christ to those who knew him, and which we'll carry in our hearts forever.
He was there in the fruits of the pastoral work he was doing in his parish and in the pastoral work he did away from our shores.
And he will be there when one day we will get to meet again.
Till then Fr Rene, farewell.
Condolences to his relatives and family, may they find comfort in the knowledge that the good he did in his life will echo in eternity.