Deacon Karl Sinclair and Deacon Dong Van Nguyen will be ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Bathurst by Bishop Michael McKenna on Friday 21 February at the Cathedral of St Michael and St John, Bathurst.
Deacon Karl, who grew up as a parishioner of St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie, spoke to Catholic Outlook ahead of his ordination.
Catholic Outlook: What comes to mind when thinking you will become a priest on 21 February?
Deacon Karl Sinclair: I think more than anything, its that I am ready to get to work. I have been in formation since the beginning of 2012 and so after so many years preparing, I am ready to get to work celebrating the Mass, anointing the sick, forgiving sins and working alongside other priests in the vineyard of the Lord.
CO: How important will that day be for you, your family and friends?
KS: Obviously very important! Personally, I can’t wait and am very excited. Aside from the years preparing for ordination, just the event itself has involved a lot of planning, which only adds to the growing excitement. Add to that, there are so many people who have supported me all along the way, from even before I started at the seminary, and so, I think in some way they have been a big part of my journey. My ordination will come to many of them as both a day of relief that I have made it, joy at the celebration itself, and hope for the future to come.
CO: What has been a highlight of parish placement as a deacon?
KS: The two highlights have been baptising and leading funerals. My first baptism was for three slightly older children who were able to give their own responses and understood what they were undertaking, which was very special. There is something particularly special about being the one who gets to baptise. I hope that joy never fades throughout my ministry.
As for funerals, it is an immense privilege to be with people in their darkest moments of grief. Every funeral is sad, but I have done some particularly sad funerals already and there is very little you can say to grieving people except that Jesus is with them in their suffering and that God is at work, even when it seems so hopeless. You just have to do your best in these moments to be there for people.
CO: Why did you decide to become a priest? What called you to the priesthood?
KS: I reached a point in my life where I wasn’t sure where it was heading, and a friend (himself a non-believer) suggested I go work for the Church. In the months that followed, I looked at the things in my life that made me happiest and it was my involvement with Antioch [youth movement] at [St Anthony of Padua Parish] Toongabbie that brought the most joy in my life. Eventually I realised that the things I liked most about Antioch, such leading the community, giving talks, praying with others, were all things I would get to do, in some way, as a priest. So I started talking about it with friends, family and some priests, and it made more and more sense. I eventually went off to the seminary and the call has only grown stronger since.
CO: Are there any saints you have a devotion to?
KS: None that I have a great devotion to but many who have inspired me. In first year, I had to read a book about Damien of Molokai and I often think of him and his work among the lepers. I pray that I never lose sight of the individual before me, nor choose my own comfort and safety over the demands to preach the Gospel and serve the poor.
CO: What sort of support do you have around you that you can turn to when priestly duties might seem overwhelming?
KS: I am blessed to have many good friends in my life, some Catholic and some not, who are more than happy to listen to me, offer support, challenge me if necessary and to just be there. I am also blessed to have support in my diocese from both other priests and some people in the Chancery who are more than happy to hear me out and offer my advice and support. Finally, Spiritual Direction is an essential resource to help put things into the perspective of what God is on about in even the hardest of moments.
CO: Can you describe seminary life?
KS: I struggled throughout the seminary, but it was always challenging me to grow: in faith, in virtue, in my pastoral skills and in knowledge. It is a very intense life with days full of prayer, classes, study, pastoral work and the demands of community life. At times I found it very difficult but each of these moments allowed God’s grace to help me grow.
CO: What was a highlight of seminary life?
KS: The friendships I formed with fellow seminarians along the way. Getting to live with and work alongside others in such an intense way as we do at the seminary, you need friends. Some of the guys I have lived with at the seminary will be friends for life and for that I am immensely thankful.
CO: Is there one or two aspects of priestly life that you are looking forward to?
KS: I am looking forward to it all. Celebrating Mass and the other sacraments, giving homilies, leading parishes. I am very excited.
CO: Where will your first Mass be? What do you think that will be like?
KS: My first Mass will be the morning after my ordination at 11am in the St. Stanislaus’ College chapel [in Bathurst]. I worked at Stannies [St Stanislaus’ College] for four years in boarding, as a maths tutor, and leading music ministry in the boarding house masses, and was at Stannies when I was first considering priesthood, so the venue itself will be quite special. Many members of my family and my closest friends will also be present so that will add to the occasion. I expect the Mass to be full of grace and joy.
CO: How will it feel to be able to celebrate Mass back in your home community of Toongabbie once you are ordained?
KS: It was while at Toongabbie that I fell in love with Jesus and learnt what it is to be a Christian, so returning home to celebrate Mass will be fantastic. I will celebrate Mass there at 10am on Sunday 1 March and it will be quite an experience celebrating Mass for some long-term parishioners who have known me since I was baptised at St Anthony’s in 1986!
CO: Who would you like to thank for helping you get to this point?
KS: My parents have supported me all the way and without that support, I don’t think this would have been possible. I thank my many friends who have carried me along the way. I thank Bishop Michael McKenna for his support and encouragement and for ordaining me. I thank the seminary [Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Homebush] staff and many priests both in Parramatta and Bathurst who have guided and taught me.
CO: What message do you have to other young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood?
KS: That your first calling is the baptismal call, to respond to God’s love for you by dropping your nets and following Him whatever your state of life. If you think you might be called to the priesthood, though, don’t be afraid to explore it. Whether or not God is calling you will become evident during your time at the seminary, and even if God is not calling you to be a priest, the time in the seminary will bear fruit in your life and in the life of the Church one way or another.
CO: Any other final thoughts or comments you would like to share Catholic Outlook readers?
KS: As much as we need good priests, and we do, we also need good women and men to take up God’s call of their baptism, to love Him, love others and to proclaim His love to the ends of the earth. To quote Pope Francis, “For God, we are not numbers, we are important; indeed, we are the most important thing to him.”
Once ordained, Fr Karl will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving in the Chapel of St Stanislaus’ College, Bathurst on Saturday 22 February. He will also celebrate Mass at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie on Sunday 1 March at 10am.
From March, Fr Karl will be appointed as assistant priest at the Parish of St Mary and St Joseph, Orange.