The Catholic Church of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains has joyfully celebrated the ordination of its first priest since 2018.
Andrew Rooney, a Western Sydney local, was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, in front of a packed St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, on Friday 26 August.
In front of the clergy of the Diocese of Parramatta, family, friends, parishioners and even his former school teachers, Andrew beamed as he began the next chapter of his life.
“We rejoice on this day and we pray for Deacon Andrew as he receives the grace of priestly ordination,” Bishop Vincent said in his opening remarks.
“The church in Parramatta is rejuvenated by Andrew’s youthfulness, reinvigorated by his commitment and enriched by his gifts.
“We pray that Christ’s self-sacrificial love, which he will celebrate daily at the altar, will nourish and strengthen him on the journey that he has just begun.”
Andrew called to live and share the Good News
During his homily, Bishop Vincent mentioned that Andrew’s journey to the priesthood has been long and winding, but a journey that has been unwavering and unreserved.
“Priestly vocations don’t happen in a vacuum. They are born, nurtured and formed in the womb of the family. It is right that we pay tribute to them for their faith, love and support.
“I’d like to also acknowledge the role of the formation team at Holy Spirit Seminary and many others who accompanied Andrew with professionalism, dedication and love.”
Bishop Vincent called Andrew and the whole Catholic community to live and share the Good News by virtue of Christian discipleship.
“If the priesthood has a better future, it has to be humanised, it has to find expression in better mutual support, collaboration and partnership.
“The priest is not a lone and exalted figure exclusively chosen and gifted with something which most people do not have. Rather, the priest is the presence in whom the implicit priesthood of the baptised is called to become active.
“In this way, we learn to discover a deeper and more holistic identity as members of the People of God and as presbyters in the sense of preceding and leading people by example.”
Andrew to offer his life to the Church for many years to come
At the conclusion of Mass, Fr Andrew shared a sincere and heartfelt note of gratitude, which was peppered with light-hearted observations.
“I can say how utterly overwhelmed and privileged I am to be standing in front of God and all of you, my dear family and friends, as a priest of Christ.
“You may be as curious as I as to whether or not after almost ten years, this was actually real. And you may be asking how an ‘ex-Hungry Jacks master chef-turned music school dropout’ managed to make it here tonight,” he joked.
“I truly believe in all honesty that it was by the grace of God, through you, the people of God who have invested your love, prayers and friendship in me, that somehow managed to mould this ‘oaf’ into something resembling a priest.
“To Bishop Vincent Long, thank you for your personal support of me, and for humbly extending your trust in me to share in this wonderful ministry and imparting on me this profound and precious gift of the priesthood.
“To my brother priests – what an honour it is to say that. I very much look forward to serving with you in this Church of Parramatta for many years to come.
“To my sojourners, my comrades, the seminarians – I truly see you extraordinary men as brothers, and anticipate a long, fruitful ministry together. I hope tonight will prove a sign of hope that with God, nothing is impossible.
“To you, the people of God, imparting your wisdom and generosity on to me, it is a privilege to offer my life to you.
“‘The priest is not his own,’ said the prolific Venerable Fulton Sheen. These words form my prayer for tonight, that I can truly live out this call, through the graces received tonight that I may truly empty myself and be an image of Him who is the source of my priesthood.
“This is the prayer I ask you all to pray for me – that it is no longer I who live, but Christ.”
Woman who inspired Andrew’s faith incredibly proud of her son
In his words of thanks, Andrew made special mention of his parents, Michael and Margaret, for allowing him to choose “such a wonderful and beautiful life”.
Margaret told Catholic Outlook that she was “over the moon” that Andrew’s ordination day had arrived.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting for this day to come. The whole family’s right behind him and all so proud of him.
“It’s been lovely watching him grow in his faith and in his education. The way he delivers his homilies, people seem to love it. I’m really proud that he’s doing so well.
“I think he’ll make a very friendly priest. Since he was five, he’s always been out there, talking to people, and happy to do so, and he’s carried that right through.”
Fr Andrew will continue to serve in the Parish of Baulkham Hills.
Rewatch the Solemn Mass of Ordination to the Presbyterate via livestream here.
View images from the Ordination Mass here or below: