Fr Adam Carlow reflects on his first year in priestly ministry 

By Mary Brazell, 18 June 2024
Fr Adam Carlow is seen following his first Thanksgiving Mass at St Benedict's Shrine, St Gertrude's Parish, Smithfield, on 5 February 2023. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


On 2 February 2023, the Diocese was blessed with the ordination of three priests, Fr Adam Carlow, Fr Matthew Dimian and Fr Jack Elkazzi, by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. 

One year on from his ordination, Catholic Outlook spoke with Fr Adam Carlow about some of the joys of his first year in ministry and how he is laying the groundwork for the year of ministry to come. 

Fr Adam is currently Assistant Priest at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst. 


Catholic Outlook: What has been a highlight of your first year as a priest? 

Fr Adam Carlow: A lot of my ministry over the last year has taken place with couples preparing for marriage. As a millennial, I think my generation, who are now marrying in significant numbers, are characterised by a diversity and plurality in terms of belief and practice. Many of my generation aren’t weekly Mass-goers, and mixed marriages between Catholics and people of another faith or denomination aren’t out of the ordinary. 

One of the questions I’ve grappled with this year is how do I best accompany them? How do I help them prepare for a life together? It’s quite a significant undertaking to marry. While there are some challenges, I can’t express in words how much a gift it has been to walk with these couples, one of the great joys of priesthood so far.  

We’ve put together an engagement program here, doing a lot of group ministry with young couples at the parish. The Holy Spirit is at work with them, and I think that is expressed in the commonality that is shared by all of them coming to marry – they’re all seeking that authentic, unconditional love, a love that reflects the love Jesus has for his bride, the Church. That for me is a starting point.  

Fr Adam Carlow blesses parishioners during the Easter Vigil at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst. Image: Supplied


How have you got through the challenges that you might have faced in your first year as a priest? 

I think the priesthood is a bit like marriage. We prepare as best we can for our vocation, but we never really know what it’s like until we’ve walked through the door. There’s been so many new experiences over this last year with my first placement at St Madeleine’s in Kenthurst. At the beginning of my priesthood, I found myself alone for three months with the parish priest leaving for overseas to be with his dying mother. I didn’t see that coming! 

Those three months were a ‘thrown in the deep end’ kind of moment, beginning ministry as a priest while trying to manage what has, in recent times, become a larger and busier parish. While the seminary prepares us to a point for ministry, there is an element of surrendering to God in all of this, a trust that says God will equip us with his help. 

One of the things that came out of those three months was a great outpouring of support and love from the parishioners, that has continued throughout my time here. Their love for the Church has left me with an incredible appreciation for them and the common priesthood. I think there are many saints here.  


How have you maintained the relationship with your fellow ordinands? 

I’m in regular contact with the newly ordained. Just the other week, we had dinner at Fr Chris Del Rosario’s place, and we try to do that kind of thing from time to time. I’m lucky to have Fr Matthew Dimian just down the road from me in [St Bernadette’s Parish] Castle Hill. There is a bond there with other newly ordained priests that it is different to other relationships. It’s like a brotherly kind of support. Ministry is busy, but we make time to be in touch with each other. 


In your pre-ordination interview with Catholic Outlook, you said you wanted to continue to serve in school and youth ministry. Have you had the chance to achieve this in your first year? 

From Kindergarten to Year 12, we have about 1500 students here on site at St Madeleine’s Primary and Marian College.  

I think it’s so important just to be present, particularly to the students, to show them the Church cares, that the priest is a familiar face and not someone they only see during Mass. It’s a challenge to get to know them all, but I’ve chipping away at it bit by bit!  

Fr Adam Carlow (centre) with members of “St Mads” from St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst, during the 2024 LIFTED Sports Day, hosted by Catholic Youth Parramatta at Parramatta Marist High School, Westmead. Image: Alphonsus Fok/Diocese of Parramatta

Last year, we had the Year 12 retreat which ran over three days, and I decided to stay for the whole time. The experience reminded me of my own faith journey when I was finishing high school, and it was special to see the students opening up with their faith. Lots of relationships have been built there. Some of them joined our parish the other day at the LIFTED Sports Day, a youth event run by the Diocese. I think a lot of it is just down to having a relationship with them. 

We’ve been trying various things to involve the younger ones here in the life of the parish. Recently, we revamped the junior Altar Server program. We had a commissioning for new ones at Pentecost. It’s amazing what’s come from that, just giving them a little opportunity to do something for the community. I think it’s brought some life to their faith, and to the wider parish. The young ones have really taken things on board, and it’s just great to see.   


What was it like participating in last year’s inaugural Diocesan Synod as a young priest of the Diocese? What inspired you about the faith community of the Diocese during the Assembly? 

The most positive thing that stood out to me at the Synod was the love for the Church that was shared by everyone present. I think that lent itself to an environment where there was a feeling of a genuine goodwill for the other, even when disagreements arose. Although there were lots of emotions and passion expressed, I was worried that the Synod would devolve into an argumentative battle between people and ideas, but that never came to pass. There was a real sense of unity and togetherness in the room. I think that gets to the heart of what synodality is about – that idea of journeying together, listening and discerning as a community of believers, as an imperfect family. 

Fr Adam Carlow speaks during a ‘Voices from the Floor’ session of the Diocese of Parramatta Synod Assembly at Commbank Stadium, Parramatta, on 14 October 2023. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


If you had more time/resources in your parish, what would you love to do? 

I think time will become more available to me as I grow in my ministry. At present, I’m doing things for the first time, and that takes a lot of preparation and learning. I guess I’m kind of in the process of laying down the groundwork in many areas of my ministry, trying different approaches to things, and building my own set of resources to help me manage. I don’t have the resources or the experience of a priest of 20 years. I’m trying to be kind to myself, finding what works best for me, and recognising my own limits in the short amount of time I’ve had as a priest.  


What do you hope your second year of being a priest brings? 

I hope to refine the marriage program, to tap into the amazing performing arts body here at Marian College, which is unlike anything I’ve seen in any other school and look at ways to be connected in to the life of the parish. Finally, I look forward to several parish initiatives that we are currently working towards with our pastoral council – there’s quite a few things on the horizon!  


Learn more about discerning a vocation to the priesthood on our Diocesan website. 

View images from Fr Adam’s ordination with Fr Jack and Fr Matthew and images from his first Thanksgiving Mass.


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