Two young Sydney men were ordained as priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei in Rome on April 29: Phillip Elias, 33, of Pennant Hills; and John Watson, 31, of Wahroonga.
The ordination of Fr Elias and Fr Watson was attended by over 70 family members and friends from Australia and New Zealand. They will remain in Rome for a few months to conclude doctoral theses before heading back to Australia for pastoral work.
They were among 31 faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei from 16 countries ordained by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State. The ceremony took place at the Basilica of Saint Eugene.
In his homily Cardinal Bertello told the new priests to be “‘priests-priests, priests one hundred percent’, as your holy Founder Saint Josemaría used to say”.
“Exercise your priesthood with deep joy and ardent faith. The brothers and sisters you will encounter in your ministry expect from you the prophetic testimony that the Eucharist is the heart of the priesthood.”
Fr Elias and Fr Watson have much in common. They both grew up in Sydney in large families; they both graduated from Redfield College, a school of the Pared Foundation in Dural; and they both share a passion for rugby league.
Fr Elias studied medicine and modern history at the University of NSW and worked as a doctor for some time. He was assistant dean at Warrane College for several years and made many close friendships there. A number of former residents attended the ordination.
“The priesthood is a bit like medicine in that it is a calling to serve,” he says.
“My main hope is to be of service to God and to those around me. I particularly admire Pope Francis’s call to work at the peripheries, whether they be socioeconomic, cultural, or existential. It is challenging in a society which can seem to be at times indifferent to a religious message. But for this reason it is also attractive, because I believe it is here that a priest can really have a positive impact.”
Fr Watson studied economics and finance at the University of Sydney and Auckland University of Technology and then worked as a business analyst for Telecom New Zealand.
When he returns to Australia, he will have a range of responsibilities, but he says that he is looking forward to working with youth. He says that the work of the priest is essential to help young people live their Catholic Faith well.
“Priests are indispensable in helping young people achieve their great desires and ideals, especially in trying to attain the greatest of all ideals, that of following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“Perhaps one of the big difficulties is discouragement, especially when their environment seeks to discredit the Christian message. As a priest, by preaching the Word of God and administering the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation, I hope that I can show them the path along which Jesus Christ walks who will provide the inner strength they need to walk it.”
Both Fr Elias and Fr Watson have asked for prayers as they launch into their pastoral work.