YOUNGER faces will be a common sight at Queensland’s Holy Spirit seminary this year as seven men under 30 began their studies for the priesthood this week.
Brisbane archdiocese welcomed seven young men to the seminary on February 11, making it the largest local intake in years.
The cohort includes two Vietnamese men who were invited to study at the seminary under a new initiative by Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
Michael My Van Tran and Sang Duc Bui met Archbishop Coleridge during his first visit to Vietnam in early 2016, when he hoped to recruit young men for the Queensland seminary.
The Archbishop told The Catholic Leader following his visit that he was seeking “a couple of appropriate young men to come here and study for the priesthood”.
He also said he was impressed with the strength and vigour of the Church in Vietnam.
Following their meeting with Archbishop Coleridge, Mr Tran and Mr Bui began studying English at ACU Banyo last year before being officially welcomed into the seminary on February 11.
They were welcomed alongside Gold Coast twins Matthew and Thomas Popovic, teacher Bradley Davies, Logan parishioner Tristram Garbellotto, and former Centacare employee William Brennan, who is studying to be a priest for Townsville diocese.
Seminary rector Monsignor John Grace said the 2018 intake was the largest group the seminary had welcomed in years.
It is also one of the youngest cohorts, dropping the average age of the seminary well below 30.
Msgr Grace said in today’s standards, it was an heroic act for a young man to become a priest.
“There’s a great heroism in a young person striving towards a commitment to priesthood in the milieu of society at the present time when there are so many kinds of counter-cultural forces against such a regulated and ordered way of life and a way of life that’s geared to very high ideals, and the pursuit of specific values that come from the Gospel,” Msgr Grace said.
“In other words, to pursue a divine path in a very secular world is indeed a very significant challenge.”
This challenge also meant praying for the seminarians was crucial.
“What it does call for, I think, is to match the courageous generosity on the part of the young people with prayerful support and generosity from, above all, the Catholic community,” Msgr Grace said.
“They’re showing a big step forward and we’ve been very graced to have the service of clergy from overseas and will continue to be graced that way, but it’s also a grace to have vocations rising up in our own communities and we have to acknowledge that.
“It’s only basic courtesy to acknowledge that.”
While the seminary’s first-year students are all under 30, Msgr Grace said the group of 22 seminarians, plus two archdiocesan transitional deacons, reflected an accurate picture of the modern Church, which is becoming smaller, older and more culturally diverse.
“The seminary does reflect the Church in a fairly accurate way and it should reflect the Church, in that numbers are fewer, it’s ages higher, and it is very multicultural,” he said.
“We must strive to be in step with the Church.”