As a young child helping out at his parents' inner-city fruit shop,  young John Ferlazzo could never have guessed what his future would hold.

Studying pharmacy, then joining the Franciscans and taking the name Mario during his novitiate in 1956, and then being sent as missionary to Papua New Guinea, Mario's life has been, to say the least, very interesting.

"I was very shy and couldn't imagine myself preaching, " Friar Mario said. "But my strengths were that I was very adaptable and could be sent anywhere."

While he was waiting to fulfil his dream of being a missionary, Mario was sent to 'cool his heels' in New Zealand for two years. Upon returning to Sydney, he was sent to train to become a mechanic .

"It was rather funny working there as the other men had no idea I was a religious ... until one day at the end of the shift I changed back into my "blacks". They were all so shocked."


In 1962, the time came for Mario to head to Papua New Guinea to work as mechanic. "My first thought stepping out of the air conditioned plane was that I had to get used to the heat," he said.

Ironically he was required to fix motorbikes and his training had been on trucks. Despite not having any experience on motorbikes, Mario set about methodically pulling apart the engines and learning as he went.

"I was still pretty shy and didn't preach, but in day-to-day life, I found it easy and natural talking to the people and even taught at the schools."

His pharmacy experience came in handy during his twelve years in Papua New Guinea administering the anti-malarial drugs and working with the sulphur medications.

"My whole attitude has been to do whatever comes up - accepting what needs to be done and adapting to the situation at hand," he said. "To do anything that God asks of me, whatever is necessary."