Source: Catholic Outlook, August 2016
By Elizabeth McFarlane
Looking as if it was about to collapse, the small chapel in East Timor leaned to one side. There were a few plastic seats with a laminated image of Jesus Christ on the wall and a little wooden cross handmade out of sticks. The image read: ‘I will be with you until the end of time.’
It was this seemingly simple setting where Adam Carlow felt the call to the priesthood: “I remember walking out of that chapel in Timor and hearing the call from God to priestly life.”
Adam is a seminarian for the Diocese, completing his third year at Holy Spirit Seminary after the eye-opening mission trip to East Timor taught him that “the Spirit is enough”.
“The people in East Timor were living off the land in palm huts with no electricity and no running water,” Adam explained.
“To many, they would be perceived as poor, but for me, they were some of the richest people I have ever met. They were rich in Spirit. They had a Spirit I had never seen before that was really on fire.”
It was this experience that Adam drew upon for reflection on his vocation to the priesthood. However, had it not been for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Adam may have never set foot in East Timor.
“I had been slowly coming back to the faith after WYD and wanted to live my life as a Catholic, which for me meant going out into the world and doing charity work,” he said.
Adam grew up attending Sunday Mass with his mother, but drifted from the Church in his high school years.
“I fell away from the faith when a lot of my peers stopped going to Mass and stopped practising,” he said. “When you’re that age, you don’t want to be an outsider. You want to be part of the in-group.
“There wasn’t much of a Catholic culture among my peers but my Religion teacher at school started talking about their experience at WYD, and on a bit of a whim, I decided to go.”
Adam went to his local parish, St Benedict’s Parish in Smithfield, and it was with their Antioch youth group that he went to WYD in Sydney.
“It was there that I rediscovered the faith. It had been two or three years since I had been to Confession so I made the decision to go. It was a very moving experience,” he said.
“I celebrated my 18th birthday on 20 July with Pope Benedict XVI at Randwick Racecourse. Celebrating my faith and birthday with 200,000 young people from around the world was incredibly powerful.
“When WYD finished, I started attending Sunday Mass again and continued to be involved in the Smithfield Antioch group.”
The Parish Priest and Assistant Priest of Smithfield at the time, Fr Albert Wasniowski and Fr Damien Mosakowski, became father figures.
“Fr Albert was the first person to ask me if I had been thinking about the priesthood, and if I felt called and would like to be a priest,” he recalled.
“At first I thought the idea was a little bit crazy. I thought I was going to follow the normal path in life. I thought I would get a good paying job, get married and have children. “The idea of the priesthood, I thought, was good for other people but not for me.”
But there was something attracting Adam to the priesthood and what started out as a crazy idea, turned into a noble pursuit.
“It certainly wasn’t overnight. It was a long process of about five years where God worked with me,” he said. “He walked with me and, over that time, the idea didn’t seem as crazy.
“I became closer in faith, closer to God and that original feeling of being attracted to my faith and to the priesthood was growing larger and becoming louder, to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.”
When asked what advice he would give to those discerning their vocation, Adam said to trust in God. “One of the hardest things to do is to trust God when you’re faced with big life decisions,” he said.
“With big life decisions, there is always a lot of uncertainty, but it’s important to have that trust in God to make the next step.
“Pray for courage. Be courageous.”
To view a gallery of photos from Mass for the commencement of the 2016 seminary year, click here