For many seven- and eight-year-olds, learning about God and Jesus through the Sacraments is a big undertaking.
But for Alexander Kurkcu, this time was the catalyst for a life devoted to Christ.
“During that time, when we were in primary school, it was the first time I met Fr Brian [Rooney, the late Pastor Emeritus of St Monica’s Parish North Parramatta] and that’s when he went through the sacraments and talked about the priesthood,” Alexander said.
“That’s where the idea [of joining the priesthood] originated from. Eventually, becoming an altar server and being part of the church – that’s where the development started,” he said.
Alexander is the youngest of the five first-year seminarians at the Diocese of Parramatta’s Holy Spirit Seminary at Harris Park.
Alexander was born at the turn of the century, is the eldest of two children and grew up in Parramatta.
“I had a blessed and beautiful childhood. I was lucky that I had a good, healthy [childhood], I was really close with family – uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents – who were really involved in our lives,” Alexander said.
He was baptised at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, St Marys, but completed the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Communion and Confirmation at St Monica’s.
Whilst completing his secondary studies at Parramatta Marist, Westmead, Alexander had the chance to further reflect on and discern his vocation.
“It’s hard to put my finger on the specific moment, I feel like it’s just been more of a slow development with ups and downs, but always progressing upwards,” Alexander explained.
“When I reached a more mature age, probably 15 or 16, you start to be more serious about life and that’s when you’re contemplating what your purpose is. At that moment, that’s where my faith really started to strengthen.
“I always had this idea of priesthood and that’s where it flowered.
“I told my friends in high school that I wanted to be a priest, but I always thought ‘it’s not for me’ because I knew for a priest there’s a lot of study, and I wasn’t really the best academic person. That shied me away from it.
“But the more that I started to read more and get into it, I then found that it was interesting, and I might be able to progress further,” he said.
Following high school, Alexander spent four years at TAFE, earning qualifications to become a mechanic, and worked at his family’s business.
Now a few months into his seminarian studies, Alexander feels he is getting into the rhythm of this new chapter in his life.
“I enjoy the relationships I have with the other seminarians. You can always ask questions, have jokes, or spend time with them. We’re brothers,” Alexander said.
“Fr John [Hogan] is very supportive, wise and very helpful, especially for first-years trying to discern their calling.
“I feel like I already have a good relationship with the local parish [of St Oliver Plunkett Parish, Harris Park], just from the couple of times we’ve met.
“For the play on Good Friday, I’m being Jesus. So I’m already in the community straight away.”
In light of the controversies surrounding the church, Alexander believes that his call to priesthood shows strength.
“Especially now, it’s a time where we call for saints,” he said.
“We have a course in the morning with Fr John and one of the quotes he uses is ‘fortitude in adversity is flourishing.’
“I like that, as it shows the courage in hard situations and if you push through, it will flourish.”
“In hard times, if you stand your ground, it shows strength and how someone can really flourish and shine.”
Alex’s message for men considering a vocation to the priesthood is to pray.
“Pray. Pray a lot and listen to God’s call in all signs.”
To find out more about a vocation to priesthood in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit http://parracatholic.org/vocations/, contact the Holy Spirit Seminary or Director of Priestly Vocations, Fr John Paul Escarlan – firstname.lastname@example.org