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Fr John O’Neill reflects on 55 years of priestly ministry

4 August 2017

National Vocations Awareness Week: 6-13 August 2017

Fr John O’Neill is Parish Priest of St John Vianney Parish, Doonside.

A priest for 55 years, Fr John has inspired many young men and women to take up a religious vocation.

Currently, there are three women from his parish who are in formation for religious life. There are also five seminarians from his parish who are in formation for the priesthood.

His parish at Doonside is testimony to the devotion of the parishioners and their parish priest. From the aesthetics of the church, the establishment of the primary school by the same name and the deep faith of his parishioners, St John Vianney Parish is a magnet for attracting young men and women to a life of Christ-like servant leadership.

Fr John O’Neill is Parish Priest of St John Vianney Parish, Doonside. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

The youngest in a family of six children, Fr John grew up surrounded by entertainers and said acting and singing had always been second nature. “At home we always liked to sing. All the family were singers.”

Fr John heard God’s call when on retreat in 1954 and entered the seminary, completing his Leaving Certificate at St Columba’s at Springwood. He graduated from St Patrick’s Seminary at Manly with a BA in Theology and was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary’s Cathedral on 21 July 1962.

What is Fr John’s secret in attracting so many young people to become priests and sisters?

“We need to live in the Lord and exude love for Our Lord with a clear knowledge of our Faith,” Fr John said.

He says the future of the priesthood lies in the hands of the clergy themselves. “Central to priesthood is a real and great personal love for Our Lord. We must lead by the example that flows out of that relationship. Christ must be living and visible in our parishes.”

During National Vocations Awareness Week, Catholic Outlook will run a series of articles by Fr John O’Neill about vocations, the priesthood and the Catholic faith.

National Vocations Awareness Week: 6-13 August 2017

The Catholic Church in Australia will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week from the 6th – 13th of August. This annual event is a time to pray for vocations to the Married, Consecrated, Ordained and Single States of Life. It is also a week to reflect on and celebrate our own vocations.

The first Sunday is set aside to pray for vocations to the Single life and Married life.

The second Sunday focuses on Ordained life and Consecrated Life.

Throughout this week, communities are encouraged to share about God’s call, and the many ways we can respond to it. To find out more about priesthood, Holy Spirit Seminary and vocations in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit

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