Accompanying seminarians to be ‘beacons of light for the people’

By Mary Brazell, 2 June 2022
Second-year seminarians Menard Gaspi (left) and Patrick Laurente (centre) in prayer at the Holy Spirit Seminary, Harris Park. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


Our faith teaches us the importance of community, and nowhere is this more evident than in our Diocese of Parramatta. Every day, members of the community support one another in countless ways through their prayer, faith in action and charitable works.

This generosity of heart and spirit can be carried through to the formation of our future priests. Our Holy Spirit Seminary at Harris Park is carrying out its mission to prepare men who have been called by God to become His disciples and priests for the people and with the people, not for themselves.

In 2022, we are delighted to welcome Fr Paul Marshall as the new Rector of the Holy Spirit Seminary, and Fr John Frauenfelder as Vice Rector. With many decades of experience, they are excited to be working with the 14 men currently going through their formation.

(L-R) Holy Spirit Seminary Vice Rector Fr John Frauenfelder, second-year seminarians Menard Gaspi and Patrick Laurente and Holy Spirit Seminary Rector Fr Paul Marshall. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“I really admire these men for saying ‘I’m going to try this call I feel I’m receiving’,” Fr Paul said. “It takes a lot of courage and a lot of hard work.

“It’s a brave decision, requiring an incredible leap of faith.”

Patrick Laurente and Menard Gaspi are two of the young men who have chosen to answer God’s call. They are now following in Fr Paul and Fr John’s footsteps on their own journey to the priesthood.

Patrick Laurente. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Patrick, in his second year of formation, reflected on the circumstances that led to his realisation that God may be calling him to the priesthood.

“At World Youth Day in Panama, I had the opportunity to meet so many different people who have discerned and are living out God’s vocation with such fire and zeal,” he said. “That inspired me to discern myself.

“One thing led to another, and I finally decided to respond to God’s invitation. That meant being more involved in my parish, developing a consistent prayer life, and attending Mass and receiving Our Lord daily.

“Prior to entering the seminary, I was on a career change to become a physiotherapist. But I guess when God calls, He calls.”



Menard Gaspi. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Menard, also a second-year seminarian, devoted 14 years to working as a missionary before he decided to take the next step towards a life dedicated to serving God as a priest.

“From a young age, I would serve at our Church and I always thought about the priesthood,” Menard explained.

“In my last year of high school, I met some missionaries who changed my perspective of faith and vocation. I joined a religious order and did some missionary work interstate and overseas.

“My vocation was nurtured in my family. My love for family and missionary experience has guided my desire to serve the Lord and His Church. I believe that’s where my gifts and talents can bear the most fruit.

“I grew up in Western Sydney and feel honoured to answer the call to serve here.”

As part of their formation, Patrick and Menard take part in daily scripture reading, prayer and reflection. In addition to the study of theology, psychology and public speaking, they also take time for recreational activities including music and sport. Towards the end of their time at the seminary, each seminarian is assigned to work in a parish on pastoral placement.

“Throughout their formation, we try to bring out the gifts that each person has to help maximise their potential,” said Fr Paul. “That could be musical gifts, leadership qualities, or a knowledge of IT. All these talents are important, as they’ll be able to bring them to their role as a priest.”

Both seminarians are very clear about how they see their role as priests and how they wish to serve our faith community in the future.

“I would like to help inspire them to give life to the world and make it a better, more fulfilled place,” Menard said. “In this way, I would like to help guide people to live out the essence of the Church, a beacon of light that leads the way to Christ.”

Patrick agreed, “For me, it’s about promoting unity in what we do and how we can be that light for all walks of life, not just Catholics in our parish. Because we never know who we might encounter, as God calls all of us to love.”

The past two years have challenged and changed our lives in so many ways. It has also highlighted that we, just like our seminarians, must be willing to adapt to these challenges and move forward as much as possible.

“If our faith is to be realised in people, and indeed ourselves, we need to take the very heart of what we say we believe in and make it come alive and be meaningful in a whole new situation,” Fr John said.

“If we can do that, I think our Church will have relevance.

“The young men that we walk with at Holy Spirit Seminary have the potential to dream, and to make those dreams a reality. In doing so, they will share their gifts with the people in our parish communities.”

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv with the seminarians and transitional deacons of the Diocese’s Holy Spirit Seminary in Harris Park. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

In celebrating the commencement of the seminary’s academic year in February, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, encouraged the members of the faithful across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to take part in the seminarians’ formation through prayer, support and, where possible, accompaniment.

“We are very blessed to have these young men discerning their vocation with the view to serving the Church, Christ and his people, through the ordained ministry,” Bishop Vincent said.

“Seminarians are formed with the people and for the people, not for themselves. Therefore, I invite all of God’s people in our Diocese to be the extended formation community for these faithful men. You do so by your prayer, support and when and where possible, accompaniment.”

Fr John added, “Paul and I often say to the seminarians, we’re here for you. We’ll walk with you, and we’ll be part of the experiences with you. There’ll be times when we’ll need to step aside, but we are one with you, companions on the journey.”

As our Diocese continues to grow, we need to train more visionary young men to join Patrick and Menard in becoming beacons of light for the people.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, speaks with second-year seminarians Patrick Laurente and Menard Gaspi at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Your donation to our Bishop’s Good Shepherd Appeal will support our seminarians to answer the calling in their hearts and follow the path to a life of service to God and our community.

“Thank you for your accompaniment on our path to the priesthood. Knowing we have your caring support us gives us comfort and confidence. Your kind and thoughtful donations support us in our human and priestly formation and help to make our dreams of becoming priests a reality,” Patrick said.

“Your generous support makes our formation possible, and we are humbled knowing you are so invested in our future as priests. Your kind donations allow us to devote our lives to God, sharing the Gospel, and to serving you and your families – our faith community,” Menard said. “Thank you for your accompaniment.”

To donate, please call (02) 8838 3482 or visit


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