Seminarians serving up a storm

By Mary Brazell, 21 April 2021
Seminarians Matthew Dimian (L), Deacon Andrew Rooney (2R) and Adam Carlow are seen with 'head chef' Marie Buhagiar in her kitchen. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Parishioners often cook for their priest, but thanks to a new initiative, our upcoming young priests will be able to return the favour.

Studying in the seminary prepares a young man’s mind and spirit for their vocational life, but everyone has to eat.

As they approach the end of their formal studies, final year seminarians at Holy Spirit Seminary in Harris Park also learn to plan, shop and cook for themselves. The program is based on teaching healthy relationships around food.

It’s taught in the home of Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing in the Diocese of Parramatta, Mark Buhagiar and his wife Marie.

“We want seminarians to realise that cooking doesn’t have to be difficult, and that it is quick and easy to cook a healthy meal amongst all of their parish commitments,” says Mark. “It’s important that the young men are taught in the home environment, because it gives them an insight as to what life is like to those they will minister to.”

Seminarians Adam Carlow (L), Deacon Andrew Rooney (2R) and Matthew Dimian (R) are seen with ‘head chef’ Marie Buhagiar in her kitchen. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

So what did Deacon Andrew Rooney from St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, Adam Carlow from St Paul the Apostle Parish, Winston Hills, and Matthew Dimian from Sacred Heart Parish, Luddenham-Warragamba learn in the 2020 course?

Matthew found it is possible to easily make impressive meals – and that garlic is an unsung hero. The parish priest at his current placement shows his appreciation for parish staff and volunteers by hosting them and cooking for them. It has shown Matthew the impact a home-cooked meal can make.

Deacon Andrew also sees more than the nutritional element of sharing a meal, reporting: “Meals are a central point for socialising, deepening bonds and communal activity.”

Deacon Andrew Rooney carries meals during their ‘final test’, preparing a feast for the Buhagiar family and his brother seminarians. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

The seminarians’ final test before being sent into the culinary world was to prepare a four-course meal for their brother seminarians and the Buhagiars.

Deacon Andrew joked, “Everyone left with their stomachs intact.”

But, in all seriousness, he emphasised, the sharing of food brought everyone together.


 Seminarian Specialty

Marie’s roasted tomato, pine nut and baby spinach salad with optional asparagus, prosciutto and parmesan

Prep Time – 10 Minutes

Cook Time – 30 Minutes

Serves – 1-5



  • Olive oil
  • Roma tomatoes (~1.5 per person), cut in half lengthways
  • Baby spinach (handful or two), washed
  • Pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, roughly equal
  • Optional
  • Asparagus (~2 per person), with ends snapped off
  • Prosciutto, thinly sliced, to taste
  • Parmesan, shaved, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC
  2. Place tomatoes on baking paper on a tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then put into oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until soft and starting to colour
  3. If including prosciutto: put on baking tray in single layers and bake for a few minutes until crisp
  4. Meanwhile, lightly toast pine nuts over medium heat in a frypan until lightly browned. Don’t leave pine nuts to cool in the pan, as they will burn
  5. If including asparagus: Boil the kettle, pour water into a saucepan, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a rapid boil. Add asparagus and boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water (to stop cooking process)
  6. Spread baby spinach on base of shallow bowl, then nestle roasted tomatoes amongst the baby spinach and sprinkle toasted pine nuts over the top
  7. Drizzle with dressing. If included, top with asparagus and sprinkle with shaved parmesan and shards of prosciutto
  8. Serve immediately


This article was originally featured in the Lent and Easter/Autumn 2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.

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