QUEENSLAND’S next generation of priests might work closely with Fr Michael Grace, who is headed to Rome for a two-year course specialising in vocational formation.
The Brisbane priest of eight years has accepted the invitation to study a Licentiate of Spiritual Theology in Rome with specialisation in Vocational Formation.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge invited Fr Grace to undertake the course at the Pontifical Gregorian University last year and made it official earlier this month.
Fr Grace said he had already done some work in the area of vocational formation, having accompanied young men discerning their vocation in Canali House.
He said the course in Rome would train and form him to support prospective priests “in the spiritual disciplines” and human sciences, particularly in the area of psychosexuality.
“It looks at the spiritual tradition of the Church, particularly Ignatian spirituality and also the human sciences.
“So it is in dialogue with those, particularly around areas of psychosexuality.
“Obviously it’s not something that’s new in the formation of the Church; it was certainly a part of my formation in the seminary.
“It continues to be of importance, and perhaps (to have) an increasing level of focus and awareness as the Church moves forward in light of the Royal Commission.”
In heading to Rome, Fr Grace will be leaving his role as administrator of the Good Samaritan Parish, encompassing the communities in Wilston and Gordon Park, and of St John the Baptist, Enoggera.
He said there were “mixed feelings” about him leaving the parishes.
“They’re very happy for me and they take it as a bit of good news in that sense, but also there’s always a certain sadness when a priest leaves their parish. There’s a sense of who will come next?” Fr Grace said.
“When I was announcing it to the parish, it was to say I’m happy to go but I’m sad to leave.
“It will be a time when I’m away from that connection with a parish and connection with the people.
“Most priests will presume what they will be doing, for most of their ministry, is caring within a parish community.”
The two-year course will give Fr Grace his first academic taste of Rome when he heads there in July.
He will spend the first two months studying Italian in Perugia, just north of Rome, before beginning the course in October.
“One of my ambitions is to really be able to come to a good knowledge of Italian language,” Fr Grace said.
He will join fellow Queensland priest Fr Andrew Chase to live at the Venerable English College.
Fr Grace said he was looking forward to “living in the heart of the Church, where people from all over the world congregate and study and pray”.
He said he was open to working with priests as a formator in the future if the Archbishop asked.
“My sense is to go and do that which is in front of me and let some of those questions, what might come next, answer themselves in due course,” he said.