Parishioners continue to inspire Fr Mick O’Callaghan
|Fr Mick O’Callaghan and seminarian Joe Murphy inspect construction of the new units at Harris Park with site manager Josh Haymen. Photo: Alfred Boudib.|
Catholic Outlook, September 2015
A priest for almost 40 years, Fr Mick O’Callaghan said he has been sustained in his faith by parishioners who continue to inspire him with their inherent goodness.
“Parish ministry is the greatest joy of my life as it enables me to touch and be touched by people from all walks of life,” he said. “Every day is different and so, often, the best laid plans are thwarted by an unexpected visitor or event.”
At the age of 73, Fr Mick is transitioning to retirement and is currently Administrator of Our Lady of the Way Parish at Emu Plains.
Reflecting on his vocation journey, Fr Mick said his parents were great role models in ensuring that the Catholic faith played a significant part in family life.
“There was always weekly Mass, the rosary (especially in May and October) and frequent visits by the parish priest for family meals,” he said.
“In my early teens I considered priesthood and it was a persistent thought over many years.
“When I was in high school, Sr Adrian RSM was a great influence in my life. She posed the idea of priesthood and encouraged an interest in the Carmelites as her brother was a member of that order. Sr Adrian remained a family friend until her death.”
After leaving school he worked in banking and studied accountancy. While living in Melbourne he was active in the YCW and in the Victorian Catholic Lawn Tennis Association.
“Despite having a great social life, I always felt drawn to the priesthood. In my 20s I made contact with the Carmelites and eventually joined them in 1971,” Fr Mick said.
His first five years of priesthood were involved as Vocation Director and Youth Minister, which gave him great insights into the lives of young people.
“I worked with a number of religious orders running retreats and discernment weekends for high school pupils and university students,” he said.
In 1986, Fr Mick approached Bishop Bede Heather regarding the possibility of transferring from the Carmelites to being a priest of the newly formed Diocese of Parramatta.
Fr Mick said that in his gentle manner, Bishop Bede guided him through a process of transfer and in 1987 accepted him as member of the diocesan priesthood and appointed him to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish at Seven Hills.
Subsequently, Fr Mick has served in the parishes of Leura, Richmond, Baulkham Hills and now Emu Plains.
Fr Mick said the scourge of clerical sexual abuse had caused huge changes in the Church and in a priest’s relationship with the people. “I find this very sad. I love children and have always had a good relationship with them,” he said.
“In my early years of priestly ministry there was much more trust, openness and freedom to be yourself amongst the young people – and people in general.”
As he approaches retirement Fr Mick said he tends to stay in his comfort zone rather than be challenged with new ideas. “This is frustrating as I have always considered myself a bit radical.”
He hopes to have more time for reading, listening to classical music and attending the opera.
Fr Mick’s favourite passages from Scripture are the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’ and Jesus’ encounter with the ‘Woman at the Well’. “They show God’s all-encompassing love in action. My favourite hymn is Here I Am Lord.”
But priests never really retire, and Fr Mick will celebrate Mass whenever called on and hopes to stay in touch with many of the parishioners he has come to know over the years.
Asked for advice to men contemplating priesthood, he said: “Give it a go. Nothing ventured – nothing gained!”
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