A cuppa with the priest: Fr Paul Slyney

By Christina Gretton, 26 December 2022
Fr Paul Slyney (centre) with Bishop Vincent (right) and parishioners at the 2018 Chrism Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


A six-month ‘trial’ of seminary life has turned into a lifetime of joy and contentment for Fr Paul Slyney, Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Nativity Parish, Lawson.

As he reflects on his priestly life, Fr Paul Slyney says it began with a feeling about a vocation “he couldn’t shake”. The priesthood wasn’t necessarily his first choice, he admits, but his internal compass was pointing him in that direction. To honour that feeling, he started at St Columba’s Seminary in Springwood (now since become St Columba’s Catholic College Springwood), intending to stay for six months.

As the six-month mark in the seminary went by, he hardly noticed. After a few years at St Patrick’s Seminary at Manly, he was ordained a priest in 1981. Today, his gratitude and love for his vocation is obvious.

“I’ve met extraordinary people.”

In particular, the diversity he has found in Catholicism delights him. “Diversity is truly Catholic” he says, commenting on the different approaches to worship he has seen through encounters with Catholics of the many cultures and traditions that make up the Diocese of Parramatta community. “The one thing that unites us is the gathering around the table of the Lord at the Eucharist,” he explains. “We become a holy people. The Eucharist makes us aware of the goodness of God.”

It is the part of Mass which gives him a distinct joy.

“When I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’, I smile,” he says. “I feel the sense of liberation that Christ gives us, that sense of belonging in those words, that sense of being embraced by the love of God. No one can take that away from us.”

The Catholic concept of community continues to drive and delight him, and he draws on Matthew 18:19-20 to explain. ‘For where there are two or more gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’

“The song of the Church is one of a love of God that constantly brings people together, so He may share His love, His life and His grace with us.”

He remembers his discussions with Bishop Bede Heather, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Parramatta, and his focus on community. “Bishop Bede would always say we don’t just create a holy place, we are here to form a holy people,” he says.

In talking with him, Fr Paul’s enthusiasm for finding joy in faith is evident, and we discuss how he even cheers parishioners with the odd joke.

“As Thomas Aquinas said, ‘Happiness is one of God’s names’,” he says. “Laughter and joy is an integral part of what it means to be Catholic. If we don’t see joy, we are not doing it right.”

Fr Paul talks about how the Lawson parish came together to rebuild, after the church was destroyed by a fire lit by arsonists. The parishioners made all the decisions. “It is a church built by, for, with community. It is a true expression of a living faith.”

One word in particular stands out for him about Our Lady of the Nativity Parish at Lawson. “If there was one word to say about Lawson, it would be it is an incredibly ‘welcoming’ community,” he says. “Everyone is welcomed, and no one is judged. I’m here, you’re here, we’ve journeyed on different paths to get here, but God has brought us together.”

This article was originally published in the 2022 Advent | Summer 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can pick up your copy of the magazine in parishes and offices across the Diocese of Parramatta now or you can read the digital version here.


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