In just over 24 hours, the Diocese of Parramatta will be rejoicing as it welcomes the ordination of its first priest since 2018.
On Friday night, Deacon Andrew Rooney will be ordained to the presbyterate by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, in front of family and friends from across Sydney and NSW.
Speaking with Catholic Outlook, Deacon Andrew explained that he has been feeling a mix of emotions ahead of his ordination.
“It feels like it hasn’t sunk in yet. There’s a lot of excitement, joy and relief that this part of my journey is coming to an end, and a new beginning about to happen, but there’s also a bit of anxiety and nervousness.
“Whenever you come to these big milestones in your life, it’s always such an awesome opportunity to look back and see the journey you’ve travelled and where you’ve come from and to see God’s providence and all the different things that have fallen in to place.”
Growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, Deacon Andrew’s family were one of the ‘founding families’ of what would become St Padre Pio Parish in Glenmore Park.
He and his family were always involved in different aspects of the parish, with his mother involved in the music and his father involved in various parish and school councils.
“It was just a part of my life,” he says.
Andrew’s first thoughts of joining the priesthood were as a child in an innocent, inquisitive way, but it wasn’t until after high school where he was trying to work out his place in the world that the calling to the priesthood sunk deeper.
“Someone challenged me about the Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that brought me to this sense that there is a Catholic identity and that there’s something very beautiful and unique about the Church.
“There’s a saying about Our Lady being the boat that leads us to Christ, and that rings true, very much, for me.
“At this time, I started to notice my mum’s faith and the devotions she had and the stability and firmness that she had which grounded her in her life, and that began to inspire me and to think more seriously about the Church.
“I started what I probably hadn’t really done in years, which was to pray properly. I didn’t know many prayers, but I knew the Rosary, so I picked up the Rosary and it has become a foundation of my faith.”
Since his ordination to the diaconate in December 2020, Andrew has been living his ministry in four parishes – Greystanes, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, Glenbrook and Baulkham Hills.
“I love the variety of work in the parishes. Going into nursing homes, visiting the elderly, going off to youth groups and working with the youth leaders has been a real joy for me, doing catechisms in the public schools, going into the classrooms at the local Catholic schools and being kept on my toes with the highly theological questions from Year 2 kids.
“The office staff and the parish teams from the various parishes have always been so supportive of me and we’ve always been able to work very well together as a team.
“The real centre of my vocation is my deep love for the Church, and I see my mission as expressing that love of the Church and trying to share a little bit of that love that might inspire people to see and look with awe and wonder at the beauty and mystery of the Church.
“That will involve getting down into the nitty-gritty of parish life and really bringing Christ to other people and helping them see what the Church offers.”
Once ordained, Andrew is both excited and terrified of being able to consecrate the Eucharist for the first time.
“I cannot imagine the experience, even though it will happen in a few days, of holding the Eucharist in my hands and saying, ‘this is my body’ – it’s something that I cannot fathom.
“The extraordinariness of that experience of being so intimately united with Christ and offering myself for the Church, for Christ, for the people of God.
“It terrifies me because it’s such a huge challenge in that it’s calling me to be, as Fulton Sheen would say, ‘the victim priest,’ that I can say authentically, ‘this is my body, this is my blood, given up for you’.”
Andrew wished to thank the hundreds, if not thousands, of people he has come across in his ministry for forming him to be the person he is and the person he will be giving himself to God in the priesthood.
“My family have supported me right from the very beginning and I’ve been very blessed in many ways. It’s been a long, tough journey, and sometimes, it hasn’t been easy. They’ve always provided their homes for me to relax and get away, always there to counsel me and keep me grounded.
“I hope that Friday will be very important for my family. As with any big life journey, it’s going to come with ups and downs and rocky roads, but they’ve all been there with me all along the way, accompanying me, supporting me.
“Having my family along that journey and for them to see the end of one part and the beginning of another, will be a great joy.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a Church to raise a seminarian.
“I ask the people in the Diocese of Parramatta for prayers – they are much needed and much appreciated.
“I would love to encourage anyone who has a sense of a calling or they are discerning at the moment and they are unsure, Fulton Sheen says, ‘the vocation for the priesthood starts on your knees,’ so that’s always a good place to start.
“Start with prayer, speak with Our Lord, seek counsel from Him and seek His wisdom and guidance, and you will gain the courage to make the leap.”
You are invited to celebrate Deacon Andrew’s ordination to the priesthood by attending in-person at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, at 7.30pm, OR tune in to the livestream, which is live, free and open to all via bit.ly/ARooney22.
Andrew’s first Mass as a newly ordained priest will be celebrated on Saturday 27 August at St Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park, at 1pm.