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New seminarians at Banyo a sign of hope in dark times

Priestly service: Seminarians Minje Kim, John Foley, Gerard Lai, David Nightingale, Isaac Falzon with Holy Spirit Seminary formators Carmelite Father Paul Chandler, Fr Morgan Batt, seminary rector Monsignor John Grace, vice rector Fr Adrian Farrelly, and Fr Anthony Mellor.
Photo: Alan Edgecomb

VOCATIONS to the priesthood are continuing to grow in Queensland despite the “shame” revealed in the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in the past two weeks.

The Brisbane archdiocese welcomes five new seminarians to Holy Spirit Seminary Queensland this year.

Gerard Lai, Minje Kim, David Nightingale, Isaac Falzon and John Foley took their first steps towards the priesthood at the seminary’s official opening Mass on February 12.

This year’s intake of five new seminarians is marginally larger than last year’s intake of four.

Seminary rector Monsignor John Grace said the opening Mass set the course for a good year in the seminary amidst the hurt and healing coming out of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Msgr Grace said in light of the final hearing for the Catholic Church at Royal Commission, an increase in numbers in the seminary was a sign of hope for the archdiocese.

“The invitation to the priesthood comes from God, and that call has never been withdrawn,” he said.

“In light of the revelations in the Royal Commission, the fact we have young men offering themselves for service to the Church as priest is that hope is not far.

“In our shame we don’t lose heart.”

Msgr Grace said the formation at the seminary would also “come under fire” by recommendations of the Royal Commission.

Holy Spirit Seminary at Banyo is now home to 20 men training to become priests for Queensland.

Three of the seminarians are on pastoral placement in Mount Isa, Toowoomba and Maroochydore.

Msgr Grace said the average age of the seminarians was 30.

Within the new group of students, the age difference between the youngest seminarian, Mr Lai, and the eldest, Mr Foley, is 30 years.

The new intake is also continuing a tradition of producing multicultural seminarians.

Mr Lai has Chinese ancestry, Mr Kim is a Korean native, and Mr Foley was born in South Africa.

“They fit perfectly into the blend of seminarians we already have, from Africa, Samoa, Australia, to name a few,” Msgr Grace said.

The seminary welcomed Verbum Dei Missionary Sister Maeve Heaney, who lectures at Australian Catholic University, as the director of theology formation for ministry.

It also launched a missionary pilot project, the Xavier School of Evangelisation, to equip people in Catholic education or pastoral ministry in parishes and schools, which lasted one week between February 12 and February 18.

“Half a dozen” people attended the pilot program, Msgr Grace said.

“This will be an important outreach of the seminary, and we hope to continue another week next year.”

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