There are great signs of hope amid turbulent times in the Church, according to the rector of Sydney’s seminary Father Danny Meagher.
Father Meagher has welcomed 12 newcomers to the Good Shepherd Seminary, bringing the total number of men in formation for the priesthood there to 54.
Coinciding with an unprecedented Vatican summit on child protection and clerical sexual abuse, and in the wake of last year’s Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the willingness of young men to consider entering Holy Orders is a sign that there is much hope in the future of the Church in Australia, Father Meagher told The Catholic Weekly.
“There are stormy seas but the Lord is with us,” he said, adding that this year’s crop of newbies is not the largest he has seen but is a healthy crop.
“There’s still hope. People are still being called to the priesthood and have a desire to serve the Church and its people,” he said.
This week the new recruits gathered with the current students at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to officially open the seminary year, before going on a five-day retreat.
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They will then come back to begin their discernment and formation under the first year director Father Arthur Givney with input from other seminary staff, and undertake a course on Christian Spirituality at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.
Stephen Howard, 25, from the Archdiocese of Sydney said he “immediately felt comfortable” upon moving into the seminary this month.
“But the intensity of classes and prayers started straight away and I’m sure we are in for a very satisfying spiritual year addressing all aspects for our formation from gardening to contemplation to academia and grasping at God’s will,” he added.
Shayne D’cunha, 22, from the Diocese of Broken Bay said that he thought his new home has a “wonderful balance of prayer, work and community”.
“So far seminary life has been wonderful,” he said.
“The other young men studying here have created a wonderful culture rooted in fraternity. I have also been thoroughly impressed by the formation staff who have made the transition into seminary life very easy.”
Good Shepherd’s 54 seminarians are in training for the Archdiocese of Sydney and other NSW dioceses, with eight living in parishes on pastoral placement, said Father Meagher.
This year five Good Shepherd seminarians will be ordained to the priesthood and six to the diaconate, all for NSW.
Father Meagher said that one of his ongoing priorities is working with the archdiocese’s safeguarding office to make sure students receive the appropriate training in professional standards.
“It’s important to make sure they are always up-to-date with the needs of the day,” he said.
At the opening Mass, Archbishop Fisher said that it was a “great pleasure” to welcome the first years and commended all the seminarians for their “courage and generosity” in giving themselves “heart and soul to discernment and formation for service”.