Fr Alan’s study of poetry, work in trade unionism and a holy calling show the power of Christ to unite all things.
Currently parish priest of St Aidan’s Parish Rooty Hill, Fr Alan was raised in Silverwater and educated at Parramatta Marist High School. Western Sydney runs in his veins.
After school he joined the Pallottines where he developed a great love for Thomistic Philosophy and for theology under the influence of Fr Brian Murray.
“I went to Macquarie University after I left the Pallottines, where the search for learning went well but the search for women, wine and song was pretty fruitless,” he said.
“There were many Evangelical Protestants at the university and they really knew their history,” Fr Alan said.
Parish Profile: St Aidan would be proud of Rooty Hill Parish
One of those Evangelical Protestants was the revered emeritus Classics Professor Edwin Judge, who served in senior positions in the governance of Macquarie University and Western Sydney University.
“They really threw you into the beginnings of modern history, about the Reformation and just after,” Fr Alan said.
His studies also included medieval history, modern European history, American history and the breadth of English literature.
Geoffrey Chaucer, Alec Derwent Hope and Emily Dickinson are among his favourite poets.
“Emily Dickinson’s poetry seems so very simple, until you try to break it down.”
While working as a teacher, he saw the need for protecting the rights and conditions of teachers. Before long, he was the Senior Vice-President of the NSW Teachers’ Federation.
To be elected, he and the 1983 executive had to defeat the militant incumbents in the tough world of trade unionism.
Vintage copies of The Sydney Morning Herald from the 1980s contain snippets of Alan Layt fighting for the rights of teachers, whether to a safe and vandalism free workplace at Grantham High School, Seven Hills or for new teachers at Doonside High, South Granville High and Greystanes High to receive their pay cheques.
“Two weeks without money is a long time, particularly if you have given up another job to teach and you have moved house to take up your new appointment,” he said in a 1987 news report.
His grit was also tested during the challenging strikes in 1985 that affected tens of thousands of people, after a teacher was fired in Bega.
An office full of aged tomes of books is a reminder of his former life as an English teacher and trade unionist.
“You’re too flaming busy to read here,” he said.
Fr Alan’s identity is completely tied into his service to God and the people of God. He is particularly determined to complete the extension to St Aiden’s Church, so it that will cover people who have been standing outside during Mass.
“Our Lady is the boss here and she runs the parish,” he said.
“The most important thing I do is say the Mass, it’s the most important thing in my life, this parish – the Eucharist and Jesus present in the Eucharist.”
Fr Alan’s spiritual family is the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which provides ongoing formation and support.
He also values the fraternity he has experienced with his fellow Diocesan priests, including Fr Eric Burton, Fr Paul Hanna, Fr Eugene Stockton, Fr Renato Paras, Fr Arthur Bridge, Fr Chris de Souza, Fr John O’Neill, Fr Eugene Szondi, Fr John Smith and the priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei.
The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross gives regular classes on doctrine, spiritual direction, retreats, recollections and ascetical formation in the spirit of St Josemaría Escriva.
Fr Alan is an intriguing priest, whose balance of sensitivity and action is at the service of his flock.
No doubt the words of St Josemaría inspire him in his mission: “Live and work for God, with a spirit of love and service, with a priestly soul…”
“Then all your actions will take on a genuine supernatural meaning which will keep your whole life united to the source of all graces.” (The Forge, 38)