In 2009 Sydney's Seminary of the Good Shepherd had 36 students, including 21 for the Sydney Archdiocese (with another six accepted for 2010). In addition, Sydney's Redemptoris Mater Seminary, operated by the Neo-Catechumenate, expects an enrolment of 24 for 2010, according to its Rector, Fr Eric Skruzny.
This report is provided by Fr Michael de Stoop who is the Director of Vocations for the Sydney Archdiocese.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, has accepted six men to enter First Year in the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in 2010. Their names are listed below, together with a brief description of their backgrounds.
* Daniel Russo, age 19, from Greenacre was born to Catholic parents of Italian origin and has recently completed his First Year in a Bachelor of Engineering at Sydney University.
* Dominic McGee, age 32, from Warwick, Queensland, was born to Catholic parents, dairy farmers. Dominic is currently General Manager of Operations for a fleet control company. When his first thoughts turned to the priesthood he consulted with Fr Michael O'Brien and received much encouragement from Fr Murray and his aunt, Sr Margaret RSJ, when he was in Allora, Queensland.
His current Parish Priest Fr Chris Slattery has been a great source of inspiration for him. 'He has shown me that as a priest you can give your entire self to do God's work, and that that work can be extremely fulfilling and satisfying.'
* Gerard Woo Ling, age 39, from Surry Hills is one of eight children born in Trinidad to Catholic parents, especially a mother whose 'love for the gift of the faith she imparted to her children by example.' Gerard currently works as a corporate accountant. After leaving school Gerard did not give much thought in regards to his future. He said World Youth Day 2008 helped him to be aware of his vocation.
* Michael Jaksic, age 26, from Casula is the elder of two children born to Croatian Catholic parents who migrated to Sydney in 1960. He is currently employed as a customer service officer for a courier company. Whenever Michael prayed for a good wife, the thought that he should become a priest often came up.
* Sebastian Hew, age 29, was born in Malaysia to Chinese parents. He has completed a Bachelor of Arts and Engineering at the University of New South Wales and a PhD in Physics at Cambridge, UK.
* Stephen Peterson, age 32, from Willoughby (Sydney) is the elder of two children born to Catholic parents of Indian and Malaysian origin. He is currently employed as a customer relations consultant.
This year the Archdiocese of Sydney's Vocation Centre has been developing resources and training volunteers in parishes to assist their parish priests to promote vocations.
Since I have been appointed to run a parish for the first time I only need to look at how much mail piles up on my desk to become fully aware of how much parish priests need this kind of assistance. The Year for Priests has also been providing us with many opportunities to promote priestly vocations, too many to enumerate in this progress report.
Role of parents
My greatest challenge in promoting priestly vocations lies not in encouraging young men to consider such a calling, but educating their parents lest they discourage their sons from considering it. Since marriage is the norm, many parents are naturally ignorant of the joys priests experience.
For this reason, among the resources I have generated this year, the materials we have spent the most time developing are those for parents. The priesthood is a vocation, not merely a job; nonetheless, within our publications I have been including the results of an American survey (see below).
Even parents who are happy for their son to be a priest often need to be instructed. The following true story illustrates the negative affect that some parents inadvertently engender.
A Catholic mother who is fervent in her faith and active in her local parish asked her son who was 19 years of age the question every Catholic parent should ask: 'Would you like to be a priest?' He answered without hesitation with a certain alarm in his voice, 'No! No way!'
Surprised by his bleak answer she asked, 'Why not?' 'Because no one likes priests,' he replied. Bewildered, she asked, 'What makes you think that?' 'Because every time we drive home after Mass you and dad criticise what the priest says in his homily. And you also criticise every decision he makes for the parish.' Needless to say, this was a moment of revelation for these parents.
If criticism of priests is warranted parents would be exercising virtue in bringing their concerns to the priest's attention personally, but there is certainly no virtue in criticising a priest publically, especially when children are present, because they can end up becoming cynical about the priesthood as a result.
I usually only address the positive developments when writing articles such as this progress report, however, progress is not possible without addressing any significant factors that discourage young men from considering the priesthood.
Parents would do well to ask themselves, 'Do I ever give my son the wrong impression that he would not be respected if he became a priest? How often do I talk to my children about what good things my parish priest says and does?'
A 2007 survey of Job Satisfaction in the US (Tom W. Smith, National Opinion Research Center/University of Chicago) found 87.2% of clergy 'very satisfied' with their jobs, compared with 47% of the general population, while 67.2% of clergy said they were 'very happy' compared with 33.3% of the general population.