Thanks be to God

Dear friends,

this year I celebrate 20 years of being a priest (30 November). I was ordained at St Declan Church Penshurst by Bishop Chris Toohey DD for the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). This occasion gives me the opportunity to pause and give thanks to God for such a beautiful gift he has given me.

Firstly, I am not worthy of this gift. I am a sinner. I am human and struggle like everyone else. Even though at times I speak for the Church and act in the person of Christ in the Sacraments, I am first a human, then a Christian and must like everyone else try nurture the faith and vocation God has given me.

When I was 10 I had my first conversion. It was not like that of St Paul, it was subtle. It was simply that God was real and that I experienced God in the liturgy. Slowly the idea of a vocation also grew. When I finished school a priest I knew said I was too young to join the seminary. I probably was, and for a while I followed his advise. But the call only grew louder. My experience teaches me that when accompanying a young man who feels he has a vocation you must always be honest but affirming. A young mans understanding of the call to be a priest must be tested and this is not only done in the time before entering the seminary but during the initial formation. As mine was.

I have always been slow to fully understand what God wants from me! This lead me to my second conversation just before my ordination as a priest when I experienced the power of God’s love through the Sacrament of Confession. This was no ordinary confession, it was overwhelming and for some time I remained in the church in tears not being able to move. This experience changed my life and the way I would enter into my ministry as a priest. Love and mercy must be central.

In the 20 years I have been a priest much has changed. I treasure my early years as an assistant priest in Sefton, Eagle Vale, Sunshine (Vic), Burpengary (Qld) and the challenge of leadership as Chaplain and member of the leadership team of St Eugene College Burpengary, Parish Priest of Burpengary, Administrator of Sefton and Beverly Hills and now as Parish Priest of Sydney City South. St Eugene de Mazenod said “To love Jesus is to love the Church and vice versa”. This mantra has motivated my ministry and life.

This lead me to experience a second vocation in 2013, a call to Diocesan priesthood. I have always loved being a Parish Priest and I desire to stay as long as I can in one parish so that I can be a stable and trusted image of the Good Shepherd.

As Parish Priest I believe in a number of important guiding principles: 1. Organised and ordered administration. Trusted collaborators to help in this task. 2. The Sacred Liturgy should be celebrated with reverence and love. There are lots of words in the Mass. I try not to add more words then is necessary. 3. Community is important. 4. When the sick or dying call, stop everything and go to them.  5. Personal prayer: an hour of adoration a day, Divine office 6. Daily exercise

I will be taking a break from July-September so that I can return to serve you with renewed energy and love. Please pray for me.

Fr Paul Smithers