By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook
Michael Axiak, Calvin Soares and Michael Sands are the Diocese of Parramatta’s new seminarians for 2017.
In the Seminary of the Holy Spirit at Harris Park, they join 13 seminarians for our Diocese: Chris del Rosario, Jack Green, Joe Murphy, Andrew Rooney, Shinto Francis, Adam Carlow, Matthew Dimian, Galbert Albino, Jack Elkazzi, Jessie Duan Balorio, George Stanton, Tom Green and David Sebastian.
Also at Holy Spirit are Michael Boudaher and Dory Zaouk, seminarians for the Maronite Eparchy.
Photos: To view a gallery of photos from Mass for the start of the seminary year, click here.
Michael Axiak was a bartender at the Bavarian Bier Café in Parramatta for six years. Built like a viking, the bearded bloke has a cherubic face and an ever-present laugh.
God started pulling at his heart when Michael was on the trip of a lifetime across 26 states in the US. “To put it simply, I realised I was living for myself and I was most happy in life when thinking about others,” he said.
Michael then spent 14 months in Ireland and the UK, supporting John Pridmore’s ministry to parishes. Pridmore is a former British mobster turned Catholic speaker, who travels widely. This brought Michael into contact with many parish priests, who inspired his vocation even more.
“It was fantastic seeing those parish priests live their vocation to the fullest,” he said.
Calvin Soares taught history and religion at Delany College, Granville. He has a passion for education and went on mission last year to Papua New Guinea, teaching impoverished locals.
“I still love teaching,” Calvin said. “It was really great to meet people in different cultures, they’re so vibrant, happy and it’s beautiful there.”
Michael Sands graduated from Wollemi College, Werrington, and is already enjoying seminary life. “The meals together are a real highlight,” he said with a smile.
The dining room is modern and full of natural light. The camaraderie of the young men eating lunch and exchanging banter is wonderful to behold.
Friends and relatives are encouraged to visit for lunch. Michael Sands said the Rector, Fr John Hogan, encourages the men to have visitors and see their families on weekends.
Photos: To view a gallery of photos from the opening and blessing of the new seminary residence and James Dixon House for retired priests, click here.
The seminarians have a noticeable spirit of service and hospitality. They welcome guests and clean in the kitchen. There is an extensive chore roster near the front door.
When the academic year begins, all students will rise before Morning Prayer at 6.40am, which is followed by Mass at 7am. They have breakfast together at 7.30am and clean up afterwards.
The first year students have a propaedeutic introductory year, which involves basic classes in human and spiritual formation, serving the community through pastoral placements and a solid routine of regular prayer.
Seminarians undertake clinical pastoral education, study Philosophy at The University of Notre Dame Australia and Theology at the Catholic Institute of Sydney. During their formation, the men have pastoral placements in CatholicCare Social Services, the Ephpheta Centre for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, Special Religious Education in state schools and parishes.
The relatable normality of these seminarians does not detract from their extraordinary and otherworldly purpose, to devote themselves not merely to the highest of ideals but to one even higher, almighty God.
What is most different about life in the seminary?
“Not doing what you always would, doing your own thing,” Michael Sands said.
“At home, you have other responsibilities taking your attention; the seminary is focused on God,” Calvin said.
“Living for eternity, and the Kingdom,” Michael Axiak said. “Most people wouldn’t understand why you would give up your life to pray.”
For leisure, Michael Axiak often exercises at a gym, Calvin Soares plays soccer and reads, and Michael Sands plays soccer.
The diocesan seminaries in Australia come together most years for the inter-seminary soccer tournament. This year it will be at Wagga Wagga, where the seminarians of Holy Spirit will be able to put the skills honed during Saturday practice games to the test.
Posted on 7 March 2017.