The Easter season is a time for celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. Additionally in many places in the Catholic world, the Easter Season is the time when celebrations of Ordinations often occur. In fact, on the fourth Sunday of Easter, on 3 May, the Holy Father ordained 19 men as priests for the Diocese of Rome.
Three days earlier, on Thursday, 30 April, in Sydney, Australia, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, ordained four men to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, the largest Ordination for Sydney since 1988. This was particularly significant for me as I returned home to Sydney from Rome, where I am currently studying, to be ordained as one of the four.
The Ordination was a magnificent celebration of the presence of the Catholic Church in Australia, with over 3,000 in attendance at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral.
As a 27-year-old recently ordained priest, I am greatly consoled by the fact that throughout the world, the number of men ordained every year is continuing to rise, as is the number of men who are entering seminaries.
The priesthood is a unique vocation, and it is unlike any career or profession. When I answered the call to enter into formation for the priesthood, I was studying History and Politics at the University of Sydney. It was in the context of a secular public university that I heard the call to serve God, the Church and our world as a priest.
Since the Ordination, I have been delighted by the love, joy and support that the faithful have shown towards me and it is clear to me that Catholics value the vocation, witness and ministry of priests. However, I was most pleasantly surprised by the support shown by many in our society, especially by people who are not Catholics.
Often in Australia, as in other places, faith is incorrectly described as a personal or private concern. The presence at the Ordination in Sydney of over 30 politicians from all forms of government in Australia, including the Governor of the State, and more than 40 judges and many people involved in public life, was a sign that the ministry of the Church and the priesthood is a public concern and public support and recognition is appropriate.
Furthermore, the large number of representatives of different Ecclesial communities and other faiths was another sign of the desire for unity in our world. The priesthood is not of this world, but the priesthood is in this world and it affects our world in a variety of ways.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Homily for the Presbyteral Ordinations in Rome on 3 May, commented that the priest is in the world, but "we run the risk of also being 'of the world'". I was drawn towards the priesthood not only because of the priest's role in the Church, but because of the important contribution which priests make to our world, through serving our society and helping to make our communities, with the grace of God, into a more perfect reflection of the Heavenly Kingdom.
Catholic priests appear to spend most of their days serving Catholics, but the role and mission of the priest includes the service of all of humanity.