Seminarian Adam Carlow will be ordained a deacon by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, on Saturday 29 January at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes.
Adam spoke to Catholic Outlook about his upcoming ordination and his vocational story.
Catholic Outlook: Why did you decide to become a priest? What called you to the priesthood?
Adam Carlow: When I was a child, I remember being in the habit of praying before I went to bed. That was my favourite time to pray, and to this day, I love sitting late at night spending time with God. From a young age, then, I was conversing with God, and that relationship steadily built up over the years.
As a teenager, I had a rebellious phase and fell away from my faith, as many young people do. I remember one day going into the chapel at school and it felt like coming back home. God was gently calling me, and for that brief moment, I had come back.
It wasn’t until the passing of my close friend Leigh at the age of 18 that I started to ask some deep questions about life and its meaning, and this was a catalyst for me to reconnect with God. Out of tragedy came renewal. God continued in that gentle calling with me.
I came back to regular mass attendance after that, connecting strongly with the parish priests and the young people in my parish. The sacrament of the Eucharist and Confession, and these good relationships, all helped me grow in my own faith life.
I guess everyone has a different experience, but for me, the priesthood was something that I tried to resist. At first, I thought the idea of it was not for me. It didn’t fit with an expectation of marriage and kids. As time went on, however, that gentle calling became clearer and louder over time. I was moved by God’s presence in my life to respond to his call of love in a particular way, feeling called to take seriously the notion of living out a life as a priest.
It certainly wasn’t something that I decided to do overnight. There were many years of serious discernment, and as I grew closer to God through different experiences and relationships, I realised that the calling to the priesthood was something that couldn’t be put aside. In fact, it was something that I fell in love with, so I decided to join the seminary and I’ve been at peace with this decision ever since.
CO: Are there any saints you have a devotion to?
AC: St Peter and St Paul the Apostles, St Mary Mackillop and St Therese of Lisieux.
CO: How important will the day of your ordination to the diaconate be for you, your family and friends?
AC: It’s a significant day after eight years in the seminary. It feels like a natural step to take and I can’t wait to serve the people of God as a deacon. I’m not one for attention though so, in some ways, I would like it to be a quiet transition. I see also the reality that it is a celebration for the whole Church and I look forward to sharing in that special moment with those around me.
CO: Pope Francis has urged priests to reach out to the poor and those on the margins of our society and church community. How do you envisage doing this in your priestly ministry?
AC: I think that outreach to the margins isn’t just something for priests, but something we all should be doing. In the seminary, they prepare us well for this, and we do a lot of work with organisations like the Jesuit Refugee Service and CatholicCare. The important thing is that it becomes part of us, not just something we do at a particular time of day, but something that we live, something done out of virtue and love for the other. While charity is something we should always do, as a priest, this takes on a sacramental dimension when it comes to things like encountering people in the confessional or anointing someone in hospital as they reach out to God in their last moments.
CO: Are there any aspects of diaconate life that you are looking forward to?
AC: I can’t wait to give a homily! I get really passionate and fired up about my faith and look forward to sharing some thoughts on the readings during Mass.
CO: How has your parish placement been? What has been a highlight of your time?
AC: Greystanes has been fantastic. I really enjoyed Christmas last month. We spent an afternoon putting up the crib (it’s huge) and all the young ones came out to lend a hand. Amidst the pandemic that is going on at the moment, there was total joy and hope found in that little baby in the crib. Christmas really brought us together.
CO: Can you describe seminary life?
AC: It’s to help us discern a calling to the priesthood and to form us towards that end. It’s quite a communal life where we live, pray, study, and minister together in various ministries.
While we do a lot together in community, seminary life today certainly isn’t a ‘closed in’ experience where that’s all we do. We’re very much out and about, and time with our family and friends is an important part of that. I still maintain an active life with Oztag on Thursday evenings with some friends, and I love getting out for a walk or to the beach when I get a chance.
Like with everything in life, it comes with challenges and difficulties too. I remember the late nights trying to get assessments finished, those moments where I came across tragedy and sadness in ministry, or those moments where living in community became difficult.
It’s hard for me to describe exactly what it’s like. In the past, we’ve had open days where people could come and visit. Those can offer a pretty good insight into what it’s like, and there is plenty of time to ask questions. If anyone wants to know more, feel free to reach out to me!
CO: Has there been a highlight of seminary life?
AC: There’s way too many to mention, I wouldn’t know where to begin!
CO: Have you received any great advice on your vocational journey?
AC: “We don’t need to be somewhere else, or in some other state of life, for God to be present to us. Be present to God today, as God is present with us in every moment.”
CO: Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you get to this point?
AC: Over the years, I have encountered so much love from so many different people. If I tried to write a list of people, it would never end. I thank God first and foremost, and my family too. I thank the heavenly family, all of the friends who are with God who have accompanied me along the way, and all of the people here who have helped keep me grounded and growing in love.
CO: What message do you have to other young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood?
AC: Make sure that whatever you do, your relationship with Christ is at the centre. Keep calm, don’t rush, and spend time in prayer. Finally, be willing to take a risk. Sometimes we have to step out in faith. Trust and have courage.
CO: Any other thoughts or comments you would like to share with Catholic Outlook readers?
AC: Please pray for me as I prepare for the next step in my journey. I hope you all have a good start to the new year and are staying healthy and well during this COVID-19 pandemic. God bless!
To find out more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit https://parracatholic.org/vocations/, contact the Holy Spirit Seminary or Director of Priestly Vocations, Fr John Paul Escarlan – email@example.com.
Adam’s ordination to the diaconate will be livestreamed on the Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes parish Facebook page.