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New assistant priests for Cathedral

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Fr Ben Saliba and Fr Roberto Keryakos, new assistant priests at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Fr Ben Saliba and Fr Roberto Keryakos, new assistant priests at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

St Mary’s Cathedral has welcomed two young clergy from the outer suburbs of Sydney as its new assistant priests.

Fr Ben Saliba departed St John the Baptist Church in Bonnyrigg at the end of 2023, where he served as assistant priest for 15 months following his ordination, while Fr Roberto Keryakos, ordained 2020, left Sacred Heart Cabramatta to come to the cathedral.

The two young priests have embraced the busy schedule of Mass, confessions, hospital calls, nursing home visits, RCIA and the popular City Compass program.

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From April, Fr Ben will take up the role of master of ceremonies, while Fr Roberto has come full circle and will serve as chaplain to the Cathedral College and choir, where he sang as a young Year 5 chorister.

The two young priests bring with them the lessons learnt from suburban parish life.

“There is always a lot of work to do if you’ve got a generous heart and you just get out there and do it,” said Fr Ben.

“I want to continue to have a generosity of heart and be there as a priest for people to help them grow in their relationship with God.

“We’re here to serve people.”

The two friends have settled into their new roles at Australia’s mother church and say Catholicism is alive and well in the CBD.

“One of the beautiful things is how encouraged we are by the lunchtime Mass attendants,” explained Fr Ben.

“Outside of a Sunday obligation, there are very faithful people here that take time out of their working day to come here for Mass, even though it eats into their lunch hour.”

An old boy of the Cathedral and College, Fr Roberto was three years ahead of Fr Ben at the Good Shepherd Seminary where together they spent some of their formative years, getting to know each other even better when they shared a room and many laughs during World Youth Day in 2016.

Fr Ben would even go on to serve as a seminarian at Fr Roberto’s ordination and Mass of Thanksgiving in 2020.

“He had back then and still does now the same light-hearted nature and good humour, while always being a very respectful man,” said Fr Roberto.

“One of Fr Ben’s great gifts is knowing how to judge a particular situation, what is needed and how to react.”

“You get to know Fr Roberto very quickly because he such a hospitable nature,” Fr Ben replied.

“He’s very inclusive, always wants to involve people in a conversation and also has a great gift of making people feel comfortable around him.”

Fr Roberto says that there is much more than the “bells and the smells and nice liturgy” for young priests to experience.

“What every priest would hopefully say is that we’re here to help souls get closer to God and join him in Heaven one day,” he said.

“And have a bit of fun on the way.”

While their hopes to make Lebanese pizza the latest permanent addition to the Cathedral kitchen remain to be realised, the priestly pair have certainly hit the ground running.

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