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By Seminarian Andrew Rooney, Holy Spirit Seminary
I am currently undertaking my eighth year of formation at Holy Spirit Seminary.
Though my vocational calling started when I was a child, I began a more serious discernment process at the end of my high school years.
After high school I completed a semester of a Bachelor of Music (Perf) at AICM. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I came to realise that it didn’t quite fit with my ‘life plan’ – whatever that it is.
During this time in my life, I was confronted with challenges to reflect on my faith more deeply. More specifically, I was lead to consider the priesthood earnestly, particularly the curiousness of priestly celibacy, i.e. what is it? And why are priests celibate?
My seminary experience has proved to be a testing experience. It is a time of very intense, honest, and prayerful self-reflection; not to mention the studies! Fortunately, we have the allowance of great spiritual direction and support from some of those involved in various capacities in our formation. The seminary facilitates our personal growth and our preparation for a close sacramental-configuration to Christ the priest, in order to transform our lives so we are sufficiently prepared to bring Christ to others and can effectively exercise our priestly ministry, God willing we are ordained.
There are difficult times – it’s a long haul, eight years – you get to the brunt of each semester when all the assessments are due, and we all turn into temporary hermits. After eight years of undergraduate studies you’re keen to hit the ground running and put it into practice in parish life.
Overall, I am thoroughly grateful for my time at Holy Spirit Seminary. The opportunity to pursue my vocational calling with other like-minded guys is a privilege. There is no faking it with people you live with for eight or so years. Though we can all be too honest at times, we keep each other grounded and integrous; their encouragement and example inspiring virtue and holiness.
It is often said that the seminary is the heart of the diocese. In some respects, this means that the Church of the Diocese of Parramatta is represented in the seminary. In an outward manifestation of this, we somewhat mirror the rich cultural diversity of the Diocese, housing a multicultural assemblage of seminarians. In a deeper sense, the witness of my brother seminarians exemplify the passion, piety, enthusiasm, and Christian fidelity of the faithful in our Church of Parramatta.
We are lucky to have so much support in this Diocese, particularly from the faithful of Parramatta. They never shy away from coming up to speak to us, always encouraging us and assuring us of their prayerful support. The facilities that the Diocese has provided for us are just phenomenal! How lucky we are to have our own seminary in this Diocese!
Currently, I am on placement at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes.
It has been a great joy working with so many different people and engaging in a variety of different ministries in the parish.
COVID-19 has provided opportunities, provoking thought on how we can reach people, how we can still minister to them, how we can create that familial feel of parish life, and also acknowledging in what ways we’re limited. It’s helped us to look at ways we can do things differently in the future.
I suspect this pandemic will prove to be quite a significant cultural event and I think we are learning from this. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding COVID-19 has been somewhat of a double-edged sword. It has allowed us to reflect on all sorts of things individually and as a parish team.
We have been especially concerned about those most vulnerable in our community and the elderly. While it might be fairly easy for us to go online, we have a lot of people who do not have access to a mainstream forms of communication, such as Facebook or even our parish website.
That’s been a challenge for us, how can we reach them at this time. I think it has been a common experience for most, having grandparents living close by and being unable to visit them.
The few times many of our vulnerable parishioners could go out were for things like shopping and going to Mass. Even being able to utilise phones, you can see the great loss even just socially for them.
That’s something we’ve been trying to get our heads around and work with, though we are quite limited obviously because we don’t want to be putting people at risk.
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.