I came from an assimilated Australian family of Anglo-Jewish ancestry. I am one of seven children. My brothers are Perry, Dean, Regan, Adam and Nathan. I have one sister Tamara. My grandparents were not religious but my parents became devout Evangelical Anglicans. At age 7 I was baptised in the Anglican Church with my father and brothers. Sadly when I was 9 my 16 year old brother Dean died in a car accident in Tasmania. This sad event affected me greatly and it would take a lot of inner healing over many years to fully recover from this tragic event.
Athol at 18
Athol aged 14
Athol aged 17 at his high School Graduation
My mother also belonged to a Jewish Christian group ('Jewish Evangelical Witness' founded by Lawrence Duff-Forbes) as well as the Anglican Church. She had become an Evangelical through the preaching of Billy Graham when he came to Perth in 1959. I first remember being aware of my Jewish ancestry when I heard my mother discussing her strict Anglo-Jewish grandmother at one of the Jewish Evangelical Meetings when I was about 8 or 9.When I was about 13 I started to wear a gold Magen David that belonged to my mother.
In my teens I became very interested in religion and politics. I became involved with right-wing conservative groups such as the Australian League of Rights which were often anti-semitic and I believed that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and that Jewish bankers were controlling the world. I even started to doubt the extent of the Holocaust after reading David Irving and I became friends with mad Jack Van Tongeren who later blew up Asian restaurants. Of course I never told Jack about my Jewish ancestry as he was very anti-Jewish and adored Hitler. At 14 I read a British Israelite book belonging to my mother called "Christians Awake" by Gilbert Saddler and I became interested in the Bible and a supporter of the British Israel World Federation. I later found out that my great grandparents Leonard and Hannah and many of my grandmother's siblings had been believers in the British Israel Identity which was popular before World War Two. This earlier form of British Israelism was pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist but later forms became anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist which also influenced me in a negative way. At this time I was also starting to get interested in the occult and reincarnation. I shared this interest with my Russian step-grandmother Madame Nadine (Nana Wuffa) who was a co-founder and past president of the Western Australian Ballet Company. We would discuss together the world religions and I became fascinated with the books of Edgar Cayce and Paul Brunton among others. At this time I was anti-Judaism and anti-Catholic. I also went through many fashion phases such as punk, goth and Prince (in his purple phase) and Billy Idol.
Perry, Athol (the little blonde boy), Regan (baby), Tamara and Dean
Athol aged 19
At 18 I had an experience of the Holy Spirit which instantly revealed to me that the occult direction was a false path. I also lost my anti-Judaism and anti-Catholic prejudices. I started to attend the Jewish Society meetings at the University of Western Australia and I attended Jewish camps on Jewish identity. After I moved to Melbourne I started to attend the Orthodox Jewish Synagogue and joined a Kollel with 10 Litvak Rabbi's from Lakewood New Jersey as well as studying with Lubavitch (Chabad) Rabbis. I started to become an observant Jew at this stage eventhough I was still very alternative in my dress which must have tested the tolerance of the Rabbis. Though they may have liked the challenge of this strange young man who wore stud-arm bands to synagogue. I loved the orthodox Jewish community and everyone was so kind to me especially the Rabbis. They told me not to reject Jesus but to have a little talk with him and tell him I was not rejecting him but that I was going to be concentrating on his Father for awhile. However I went through real inner turmoil as I wanted to be fully orthodox Jewish but I still loved Jesus and believed as my parents had taught me that he was the Jewish Messiah.
Athol in his 30's
One day after studying at the Kollel and out of curiosity I went into the Catholic Church opposite where I felt the Divine Presence in the empty Church. I was puzzled as I had felt His Presence in the worship of both synagogue and Protestant church but when the synagogue or church had no service it just felt like an empty building. Why did the empty Catholic Church have this Presence? This began my journey into the Catholic Church. Just before my entry into the Catholic Church I attended some Messianic Jewish meetings where a Messianic Jewish lady (Betty Baruch) told me about a Hebrew Catholic group led by a holocaust survivor Andrew Sholl[cofounder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics]. So right from the start of my Catholic journey I was able to meet with other Hebrew Catholics regularly. This was in 1987 when I was 24 years old. I also joined a Charismatic Catholic lay community that worked with street kids, prostitutes and drug addicts for many years. In 1988 I visited the UK, Europe and Singapore with my mother. I also lived in the Philippines for three years (1993-1996) and taught in Thailand for many years. My father died in 1994 when I was in the Philippines. In Thailand I was very involved with my Bishop and some priests since 1997 in giving talks promoting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, and the Marian and Charismatic movements. In this time I prayed over thousands of people for healing with the permission and direction of the Bishop and my parish priest.
Athol at 21 or 22 at University of Western Australia
Athol in Thailand with Bishop Manat and Greek orthodox visionary Vassula Ryden
Athol teaching in Thailand
However my Jewish journey also continued and later I was blessed to have lived in Israel three different times where I helped found 'Catholics For Israel' group in 2007 with my friends and neighbours Ariel ben Ami and Countess Marie (in Nachlaot in Jerusalem). I also was involved in starting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Armenian Catholic Church in the Muslim quarter in 2002 as well as studying Hebrew in Ulpan and did Jewish studies in an Orthodox Jewish Yeshivah. Tragically my nephew committed suicide at 23 years of age while I was in Israel just before the wedding of my youngest brother Nathan. I received the news when I was in Haifa just after visiting the Cave of Elijah at the Stella Maris Monastery where Father Elias Friedman (founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics) had lived. I later also spent fruitful time in America four times with David and Kathleen Moss of the Association of Hebrew Catholics (in 2005,2007,2008 and 2009). While in the US I was privileged to meet two wonderful orthodox Bishops who were supportive of Hebrew Catholics- Archbishop Burke of St Louis (now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome) and Auxiliary Bishop Cordileone of San Diego (now Bishop of Oakland).
Athol and friends[Jeff , Sister Briana and Mary] in San Diego giving talks on Jewish and Catholic mysticism in 2008
Athol with his mother in the 1990's
At the time of deciding to become a Catholic I read the book "Communion in the Messiah" of Father Lev Gillet a Russian Orthodox priest who was influenced by the Hebrew Christian Anglican priest Paul Levertoff. It was their vision of a Hasidic Jewish branch of the Catholic Church that helped make my leap into the Catholic Church. As my step-father and step-grandmother had been Russian Orthodox I at first considered becoming Russian Orthodox as I loved their spiritual tradition and as a ultra-monarchist I had a devotion to the Czars of Russia. After becoming a Latin-rite Catholic I discovered that there was a Byzantine Russian Catholic Church in Melbourne and I attended it on a few occasions. I treasure all the spiritual journeys I was led on and till this day appreciate the richness of the Litvak Jewish, Chasidic Jewish, Messianic Jewish, Anglican, and Russian Orthodox spiritualities which complement my Hebrew Catholicism rather than substract from it. About 15 or more years ago I became fascinated by my ancestor Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and his teachings. However I only met Breslovers in person for the first time when I went to Israel in 2002.
My mother Laurie with her brother Garry
My mother Laurie
My parents Gil and Laurie
After my return to Australia from Jerusalem in 2003 I first learnt of the Divine Will movement. When I was teaching at a Seventh Day Adventist School in Thailand I was given the "Hours of the Passion" and started to use these wonderful meditations in my prayer life. When I then returned to Australia I was invited by Jenny and Michele of the Casa de Luisa Piccarreta to give a talk on the Jewish Roots of the Catholic Faith. Since then I have become very involved in the Divine Will movement and given numerous talks (many of them sold on DVD) on Jewish and Catholic Mysticism both throughout Australia and overseas. In 2005 I gave a very successful talk to the Hebrew Catholic connections group in Jacksonville Florida. Sadly my mother died later in 2005 about a month after my return from America. She died in my sister Tamara and my arms while I recited the Divine Mercy chaplet over her. Her funeral had Anglican, Catholic and Jewish elements. In 2007 I was invited by a community of Carmelite hermit nuns in the USA to give a series of talks on Jewish and Catholic mysticism and I also gave a talk to the enclosed Carmelite nuns in St Louis.
Athol aged 23 in Melbourne
Athol in Melbourne aged 21 with friends Natalie and Jane
The next year in 2008 the Carmelite nuns in St Louis invited me to give 10 talks on the connections between Jewish mysticism and Carmelite spirituality and another Carmelite nun invited me to give a series of 10 talks in San Diego to a Divine Will group as well as speaking to her enclosed Carmelite nuns and also giving a talk to a community of active Carmelite sisters. On my trip to San Diego I was accompanied by Jeff (who I met in Jerusalem in 2007)a graduate of the Franciscan University of Stubenville who is an expert on Catholic mysticism and he also gave some inspirational talks. Back in St Louis Jeff and I gave a series of talks at the Hebrew Catholic Center as the foundation talks of the Bnei Miriam Kollel with the encouragement of David and Kathleen Moss. Before this earlier in 2008 after leaving Israel I visited Ireland where I gave a talk to a Catholic group in Waterford. In Ireland I also visited Cavan and the Ring of Kerry. I have also given a series of talks in Queensland, country New South Wales, Sydney, Canberra and Tasmania in recent years including the Marian Valley Shrines in New South Wales and Queensland.
Athol with his brothers Perry, Nathan and Adam in 2009 in Australia
Athol with his mother in Singapore in 1988
My cousin Shaun (far left), held by my brother Dean, and Athol (far right) held by my sister Tamara
I pray for the reunion of all into the one Faith expressed in many different ways. Unity but not uniformity. I thus look forward to the establishment of the Anglican ordinariates and look with excitement to the start of the discussion between Messianic Jews and other Jews in the Churches that began in Finland this year at the 'Jews in the Church of Christ' conference on the weekend of my 47th birthday. I have been described as a spiritual troubador and trouble shooter. I have also realised I have the calling of a fool for Mashiach (Messiah) and I have learnt much from the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and Luisa Piccarreta in recent years. The constants in my life have been the Hebrew Catholic apostolate and the promotion of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration with the friendship of two priest friends Fathers Patrick and Doug among others.
Note: In 2009 I was a candidate with the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land in Washington DC. In 2010 I taught at St Clare's Catholic Girl's College in Canberra and in 2011 on Feb 4 I became a consecrated Brother as Brother Gilbert Joseph of the Divine Presence with the 'Apostles of Perpetual Adoration'. [I had been a member of the APA since it was founded in 2006.] In 2012 I renewed my promises as a consecrated brother. On February 4 2013 I took life promises as a consecrated brother. On May 13 2013 the consecrated contemplative brothers within APA took the name of 'Little Eucharistic Brothers of Divine Will'. In 2013 I completed my Master of Arts in Theological Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle.
I am the little boy in the purple shirt on the far left on the top row with the curl in the middle of my forehead (1975).
Athol at age 13. Necklace in the picture had a gold Magen David on it that belonged to my mother.
My grandfather Hillyer Bartram. His father Henry was of Spanish Jewish and Scottish ancestry and his mother Elizabeth (Bessie) Kersley of English and rumoured Aboriginal ancestry
My maternal grandmother Linda Lewis aged 15. Daughter of Leonard of Anglo-Jewish ancestry and Hannah Lewis of Irish Frankist and Jewish ancestry
My mother's maternal grandfather Leonard Horatio Lewis. His mother Matilda West was a strict Jewess as was his uncle Simeon Levi West Jnr (who was a crypto Jewish Rabbi) in their homes. His grandfather Simeon Levi West Snr and his brother James Lewis Jnr were also crypto Rabbis among the Crypto Jewish community of New South Wales. His maternal great grandfather Reuben West (b.1764) had been trained as a Rabbi in Amsterdam before coming to England to marry his English cousin from Welford.
My great great grandfather James Lewis snr father of Leonard Horatio Lewis and son of Samuel Lewis of Norley Cheshire.
My mother's maternal grandmother Hannah (Johanna) Kissane (Kassin). She was a teacher and a midwife. Before her marriage she lived in Melbourne with her Jewish great aunt where they attended the St Kilda Synagogue and she worked for Rabbi Blaubaum.
My grandmother Linda's maternal grandmother Anne Ennis (Anes) of Frankist ancestry and Mexican and Spanish Jewish ancestry via the Carribean. She and her daughter Hannah had dark auburn hair. She was a teacher and a midwife.
My great-great grandmother Anne Ennis at 19 years of age. She belonged to a Frankist (Catholic Jewish) family descended from Jacob Frank via her grandmother Helena Moran.
My mother's great grandfather Michael Kissane (Kassin) a descendant of Chief Rabbi Raphael Kassin of Aleppo in Syria via his son Michael Kassin (Cassin) a Jewish merchant and Rabbi who settled in Ireland.
My great great grandfather James Bartram father of Henry with his relatives on a visit back to England in 1858 (aged 31). His paternal grandmother Lady Bartram (on the far right) was born an Italian Jewess. His mother Ann Strange the daughter of William James Athol Strange (illegitimate son by Jewish mistress Reyna Barzillai (known as Mrs Strange) of Lord Henry Murray) was paternally descended from the Scottish Murray Dukes of Atholl
My great great great grandfather Thomas Williams grandfather of Henry. His father Solomon was an artist and his grandfather also Solomon was a Jewish glazier and goldsmith
My great great great grandmother Eliza wife of Thomas Williams. She was the daughter of a Jewish Rabbi from Safed in Palestine and the granddaughter of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
Grandfather George Bloomer in Uniform during WW1. My paternal grandfather [through his great grandfather Leon Broide (Brady/Brody)] was also a descendant of another of Rebbe Nachman's granddaughters (Adel/Udel/Della the daughter of Feige) who married Gershon (George) Yehuda Broide (Brody)the soldier grandson of Schneur Zalman of Liadi the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch. His mother was also a descendant of Rav Nathan of Nemirov, Rebbe Nachman and the Alter Rebbe. His ancestor James Alexander Bloomer was the son of Abigail Bloomer (of maternal Sefardi Jewish ancestry) of New York and James O'Reilly Alexander of New York of Scots-Irish ancestry (ydna R1b M222) descended from the Scottish Kings ofthe House of Dunkeld/ Atholl and the High King Niall of the Nine Hostages of the 5th century.
My grandfather George Bloomer (standing) with his father Christopher Edward Bloomer. He was a non-practicing Catholic of Hasidic Jewish ancestry. Many of his ancestors were followers and descendants of Reb Moshe ben Zalman the Son of the Alter Rebbe who became a Catholic with many other Hasidic Jews (mainly Chabad and Breslovers) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They joined with and intermarried with the Papal Frankists in Ireland.
Athol on far right with brothers (Nathan the little one, Adam next to Nathan, Regan the one in army uniform) and friends