By Emilie Ng
VOLUNTEERING one year of life to evangelise young people set two former National Evangelisation Teams members up for a total commitment to God.
Dominican Sister of St Cecilia Anastasia Reeves and Melbourne diocesan priest Fr Michael Gallacher both served with NET Australia in separate years and said their year of mission prepared them for a religious vocation.
The pair shared their vocation stories at the annual NET Fundraising dinner in Brisbane on June 25.
Sr Reeves, originally from New South Wales, joined NET in 1998 after completing a degree in engineering, but hadn’t considered a call to religious life.
“In fact I finished my year of NET and I thought I was ready to get married,” she said.
“But that didn’t eventuate.”
Sr Reeves returned to the work force after NET but, feeling “unsettled”, left her job to work for the Church.
“I realise now that I hadn’t met what my heart was made for, and the sisters weren’t here in Australia yet,” she said.
While working for the Church, Sr Reeves felt a deep calling to religious life.
“I looked at the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia but I thought I was too old, I didn’t want to be a teacher and I didn’t want to live in America,” she said.
“But they had a great website so I could research everything.”
In 2010, about 17 years after serving with NET, Sr Reeves left her job with Archbishop Mark Coleridge, then Archbishop of Canberra, for Nashville, Tennessee.
“I went to Nashville, Tennessee, to start a whole new life with a 150-year-old community of women, half of whom were younger than me – I was 36 at the time, and I was the average age of the community,” Sr Reeves said.
“Life is not so different to what it was 17 years ago, and that was a one-year commitment.
“Now I’m in the process of making a permanent commitment when I make my final vows in two years, but that first short commitment really prepared me to make a second, total commitment.”
Fr Gallacher said he heard his call to the priesthood before becoming a serious Catholic.
He was in Year 11 when a Carmelite brother joked about recruiting Fr Gallacher and his friend to the priesthood.
“There was a flutter of excitement deep down inside which I tried to ignore, successfully for a while,” Fr Gallacher said.
He didn’t experience an internal conversion until he met his first spiritual mentor at World Youth Day in Rome, Carmelite Father Colin Ollerenshaw, who was a NET chaplain.
“After many cups of tea and surfing expeditions, this priest gently explained to me the Catholic faith, filled in all the gaps in my knowledge, answered all my questions,” Fr Gallacher said.
“He got me going to Mass on Sundays, got me going to Reconciliation.”
Fr Ollerenshaw eventually introduced Fr Gallacher to the NET team and, in 2005, he served his first and only year with the team.
Fr Gallacher said his year with NET was not a “discernment year” but rather confirmed his “deep desire to be a priest” and take students “further than I could take them while on NET”.
Some of those students are still with him today, their names written on the back of a Pope John Paul II prayer card.
“I started writing a list of these students who I connected with and who had difficulties, on the back of a John Paul II holy card, which I filled up during the year and is still in my breviary today,” Fr Gallacher said.
He completed his studies in Rome and was ordained a priest in 2012.
He is also a canon lawyer and works for the marriage tribunal in Melbourne.
Fr Gallacher said NET taught him the importance of committing to personal prayer, and that evangelisation was urgent.
“We need to do it and we need to do it now,” he said.