It was attending World Youth Day in Panama and spending time with fellow pilgrims who were living out their vocations that prompted Patrick Laurente to discern his own vocation more seriously – a decision which eventually led him to our Holy Spirit Seminary in Harris Park to begin his formation as a priest.
Patrick, who is 25 and in his second year at the seminary, grew up in the Diocese of Parramatta, at Minchinbury.
“This Diocese has pretty much been home for my whole life,” he says. “Mum and Dad came from the Philippines, got married here, and they have three of us – I have a younger brother and sister as well.”
He says the call to priesthood was something he discerned over time.
“It was a series of things happening in my life, and it has been quite the journey,” he says.
“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.
“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. Slowly over time, I found myself applying for the seminary. And after the interview, I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that just happened’.”
Before entering the seminary, Patrick had been studying physiotherapy, a job choice born of his love of sport and health. Over the years, he has enjoyed OzTag, bouldering, Olympic weightlifting and basketball.
Patrick says sport even helped him with his vocational discernment.
“Discernment can be challenging, especially with things that make you uncomfortable to address. But sport has helped me to learn to be open and persevere in times like this, and to realise a calling that is beyond myself.
“I mean, the idea of being a priest is not exactly normal. In today’s world, it’s just very counter-cultural. And, I guess family was a big thing on my mind, having a family of my own and raising children. But it was the sense of call, of wanting to help people on a deeper level which made me ask questions and pray about it quite a lot.
“Priesthood happened to just always be on my mind.”
Patrick says one of the wonderful things he’s discovered about seminary life is the sense of brotherhood, something which helped him in a range of ways, including familiarising himself with the intricacies of praying the Breviary, which he found hard to master at first.
“It helped that my brothers were very helpful in understanding when I got things wrong,” he says.
Asked to name one thing that could help someone who is starting to explore whether a priestly vocation might be for them, Patrick says it all comes down to prayer.
“I would advise them to develop their prayer life, to develop that relationship with our Lord, because He’s the only person that will make it clear for you, whether it’s for you or not. And I think it’s only through Him that you’ll find any consolation.”
He says Matthew 6:25-34 has been a guide for him – reminding him not to worry about his life, but to trust in the Lord.
“It’s one of the verses where I felt that God has directly spoken to me and led me to where I am now,” he says.
One of the things Patrick says has been “a real joy” about seminary life is teaching catechism in schools and connecting with the students.
Patrick says his hopes for his vocation, and for the Church, centre on working together to help people recognise God’s love for them.
“For me, it’s about promoting unity in what we do and how we can be that light for people from all walks of life, not just Catholics in our parish,” he says.
“Because we’ll never know who we might encounter down the track and whether they might need our help.”
To support Patrick and his fellow seminarians to become beacons of light for our community, please give a gift to our Bishop’s Good Shepherd Appeal. To donate, please call (02) 8838 3482 or visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/bishops-good-shepherd-co-appeal-22