The Seminary of the Good Shepherd at Homebush in western Sydney has celebrated its 25th anniversary with an Open Day in which current and past seminarians led a guided tour, lunch and personal testimonies as they welcomed around 40 young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
The Open Day on 6 March, the First Sunday of Lent, began with a Mass in the chapel in which previous seminary rector and recently installed Auxiliary Bishop Danny Meagher was the Principal Celebrant.
Bishop Meagher, who was rector of the seminary for five years until 2020, paid tribute to Cardinal Edward Clancy who as Archbishop of Sydney, had the “courage and vision” to shift the Archdiocese of Sydney’s seminary from the northern beaches suburb of Manly to Homebush.
“In a society in which we’re increasingly switched onto social media, science and technology, to believe in a transcendental God and to follow God’s commands can be very counter-cultural … which is at the heart of the priestly vocation.”
“God has always been truly present here for the past 25 years in a society where it has become increasingly counter-cultural to pursue a vocation to religious life”, Bishop Danny explained in his homily at the Mass.
“In a society in which we’re increasingly switched onto social media, science and technology, to believe in a transcendental God and to follow God’s commands can be very counter-cultural and run contrary to the more self-centered pursuit of individual pleasure, rather than the common good, which is at the heart of the priestly vocation”, he added.
Since opening its doors in 1997, Good Shepherd Seminary has formed a remarkable 102 priests and it currently boasts 46 seminarians which is the highest number of any diocesan seminary in Australia.
When the Homebush seminary was built, a conscious decision was made to try and replicate a similar setting to that of a diocesan priest. Each year group over the six years of formation live in self-contained accommodation alongside fellow seminarians, just as diocesan priests live with fellow priests in the parishes they serve.
The seminarians enjoy a healthy separation between their studies and accommodation as they study at the nearby Catholic Institute of Sydney and after a long day of study are able to return to separate accommodation quarters at the seminary, which was not the case at the previous seminary at Manly where study and accommodation space was integrated under one roof.
Fr Simon Falk, a priest in the Archdiocese of Canberra Goulburn, was amongst the first seminarians to undertake his training at Homebush, prior to his ordination in 2000. He has many fond memories from his training and the unique role the seminary has played in forming generations of priests from Sydney and beyond.
“among the current crop of seminarians at the open day was matthew French, now in his 2nd year, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his brother sam, who was ordained in the diocese of broken bay only three months ago”.
“One of my most beautiful memories was the diaconate ordination of our beloved classmate, Simon Simo, from the Diocese of Taunggyi in Myanmar. He came from poor rural origins and lost his mother at a young age. It was just wonderful to have his diaconate ordination here in our Seminary Chapel before he returned home and then in 2000, some of us would travel to Myanmar for his presbyteral ordination”, he said.
Amongst the current crop of seminarians at the Open Day was Matthew French, now in his 2nd year, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his brother Sam, who was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Broken Bay only three months ago.
Matthew said the whole team at Good Shepherd Seminary, including priests, lay staff and fellow seminarians made him feel very welcome from the moment he arrived and this has only helped to strengthen his vocation.
“The whole community here really gets behind you, so you never feel like an outsider”, he explains.
“For anyone currently discerning a vocation to the priesthood, I’d recommend taking your time and discerning through months and years rather than days and weeks. I think God reveals things to us slowly and so don’t be afraid to give that discernment a little bit of time”, he adds.
That was also the experience of fellow second year seminarian, Daniel Uremovic.
“For those discerning, keep God and prayer at the heart of it all. If He wants you to be a priest, he’ll make that possible.”
“It had been on my mind for a number of years and I had spent a year with the Capuchin Friars while I was studying theology and philosophy through the University of Notre Dame”, Daniel explained.
“Constantly in my mind and heart was how could I serve the Church and grow closer to Christ, since I had a great love for the ministry of the sacraments, for preaching and for accompanying people in the parish context”.
“For those discerning, keep God and prayer at the heart of it all. If you’re studying or working, be faithful to that daily rhythm of prayer, trust in God and if He wants you to be a priest, he’ll make that possible. Take the first step!”
Do you feel potentially called to a vocation to the priesthood? Find out more, by contacting the Vocations Centre for the Archdiocese of Sydney: Phone: 02 9307 8433 or visit: https://www.vocationcentre.org.au/