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By Seminarian Adam Carlow, Holy Spirit Seminary
I’m in my seventh year at the seminary now.
I was born and raised a Catholic, but when I was 18 years old, I had a pretty moving experience. A good friend of mine passed away. He was hit by a car and died at the age of 18. It was at that time I started questioning things and I think I was looking for healing as well.
You often find people who have been through an experience like that, oftentimes it’s a reason why people start asking the big questions and turning to God.
World Youth Day 2008 came around in Sydney just after the funeral. It was there that the thought of the priesthood first struck me, but I didn’t take the plunge until about four to five years later. I gave it a lot of thought and a lot of prayer.
At first I thought the idea was crazy. I said to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m going to be a priest, I’m going to get married, I’m going to have a big family, and I’m going to have a lot of kids.’ But as time went on, and I grew deeper in my relationship with God, the idea didn’t sound crazy anymore.
When I wanted to join the seminary I was talking to my parish priest. He was a strong fatherly figure for me. He said to me, “Adam give yourself some time to discern. Don’t rush into it. Pray about it.”
I was halfway into a university degree at the time, and he advised me to finish my degree, work for a year, and if the calling was still there, to join the seminary. And that’s exactly what I did. I finished my degree, I worked for a while, but the calling never went away. It became stronger.
The seminary becomes like a family because you’re living with the guys for so long, I’ve been there now for seven years, so there certainly is, it feels like to me that it’s a brotherhood, that these are my brothers.
The thing with Parramatta seminary is that we’re a smaller seminary as well, we might be the smallest in Australia, I could be wrong but we’re one of the smaller ones. I think the small number creates more sense of bonding. We are very close. The guys in the seminary have a great brotherhood and a great camaraderie. They’ve helped me to come to know Christ.
It’s a great place to be.
It’s been a journey for me over these seven years, and I’m not the same person now that I was when I first joined. I have changed and grown so much over the last seven years.
And God has surprised me in many ways and in many experiences that I’ve had. I would have never imagined that it would have turned out this way but it’s been a wonderful experience.
There’s a few things I can speak about in terms of seminary life. We have a strong prayer life, as a community coming together every day for Mass, praying together three times a day, and spending a great deal of time in adoration.
Then there’s the academic side of things. We complete two degrees, philosophy first and then we move on to theology, so there’s a lot of study involved, and I’m starting to burn out with the study, and having done a previous degree [Bachelor of Commerce], so we’re well prepared in terms of prayer life, spiritual life and academic life because we need to know our stuff when we get out into parishes. But it’s not just about having knowledge. It’s about an encounter and relationship.
There’s a pastoral aspect to this as well. We do a lot of pastoral work in the community. That’s something people might wonder, what do the seminarians do in the community? Well we get out into the community.
We don’t stay in the seminary. We get out into schools, we go into nursing homes, we walk with refugees and asylum seekers, we make ourselves available to everyone in the community, even if it’s just for a cuppa tea. There’s a whole range of experiences we do there.
There’s a lot of pastoral work, a lot of engagement with the wider community, and that prepares us because we’re not living in a box. We are very much in the world and that’s a good place to be. And in our seminary our family and friends have a big part to play in that as well.
We’re encouraged to be with our families and have a good social life, and that helps us to be balanced people. And we all need those connections. And putting those things together, it’s been a good seven years.
It hasn’t been easy. I have found the seminary challenges me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not where God wants me to be, just because things can be difficult or hard, that might be exactly where God wants me to be. Because through the challenges and the hard times that’s when we learn how to grow, to be more resilient, to have more faith and more trust in God.
We have been given so much. And I feel so blessed to be in the Diocese of Parramatta. I am incredibly grateful to the to the People of God who have supported me.
There’s one thing that I’m looking forward to but I don’t have to wait to do this and it’s a thing that I’m very passionate about and that is helping people encounter Jesus Christ. He is already there with them. I hope just to be a beacon to that reality.
Do I have to be a priest to do that? No, I can do this now. But that is a thing I am passionate about. That’s what I feel called to doing.
Bringing people to know and encounter Christ, is expressed in a particular way as a priest and that way is a sacramental way. So God willing if I do become a priest, I can’t wait, I’m excited for the sacraments, to be there to celebrate Mass and bring the Eucharist to people, to be there at people’s bedside when they’re dying, to anoint the sick, to hear people’s confessions, to be with people in their brokenness, to be with them in their joy as they encounter Christ in each other as they say ‘I do’ in marriage.
These are the things that I’m looking forward to. It’s a sacramental calling and I’m very excited for that. I believe that’s what God is calling me to and I’m just putting my trust in Him.
Please give generously to the Bishop’s Good Shepherd Appeal to support our seminarians on their journey to the priesthood, so they can prepare for a life of service to our community.
To donate to the Parramatta Catholic Foundation Bishop’s Good Shepherd Appeal, visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/appeal.