Vocations Awareness Week 2014: Fr Bob Anderson


Vocations Awareness Week 2014: Fr Bob Anderson
Fr Bob Anderson is looking forward to catching up on years of reading and studying the sciences, history and the Scriptures. Photo: Virginia Knight.

By Virginia Knight, Catholic Outlook August 2014 Vocations Awareness Week Feature

Father Bob Anderson is gradually settling into his new surrounds at East Kurrajong following his retirement as Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Way Parish at Emu Plains.

He is tossing around ideas for redecorating and debating whether to shatter the sylvan silence with a burn around the property on the ride-on mower.

Fr Bob has taken the first few months of his retirement to sort through the accumulated belongings of a lifetime, retaining that which is precious or will be of use in the years to come.

He is still getting used to the serenity of his new surrounds away from the bustle of parish life and after years of ministry is establishing a new daily routine.

A top priority is catching up on years of reading, and he is looking forward to studying the sciences, history and the Scriptures.

Like many of his contemporaries, the young Bob entered St Columba’s Junior Seminary at Springwood immediately after leaving high school. It must have been a whole new world for a boy from the Shire in Sutherland.

He said there was no watershed moment of discernment; the idea of being a priest grew gradually. “I did not have the intention till the last few years of high school. We were told pastors were needed and I started to consider the idea,” he said.

“Going into the seminary directly after school was the accepted practice at the time. I thought I would give it a try and if it didn’t work out I could leave.”

On reflection, he believes it would have been better to have waited a year or two after leaving school to obtain a bit of life experience and learn to know himself and where his interests lay before entering.

He said he often struggled during his seminary years with doubts about whether he was suited to priestly life. He commends the current practise which encourages young men considering the vocation to take time for inward reflection.

After completing his seminary training at St Patrick’s Seminary in Manly, he was ordained to the priesthood on 3 April 1965 by Cardinal Gilroy in St Mary’s Cathedral.

As a young curate (assistant priest) at Dulwich Hill he assisted the Parish Priest, Fr Matty O’Donohue, a venerable priest in his 80s who was a great role model to several young curates appointed to the parish.

Fr Bob enjoyed all aspects of his new ministry with the exception of Tuesday mornings when he taught weekly catechism in the state schools. He discovered teaching was definitely not his vocation. “I did not feel I was a very good teacher,” he says with a rueful shake of his head.

Most parishes had at least one curate, getting on-the-job experience for the day when he would have his own parish. “In those days to become a parish priest you had to have been ordained for a minimum of 18 years,” Fr Bob said.

He spent 15 years as curate at a number of city parishes followed by 18 months as a parish administrator.

“I had a wow of a time,” he said. “I got to meet the people and work with them, adapting to the way each parish was set up. It also gave me a great insight into the number of ways of running a parish and what worked well.”

Fr Bob’s first appointment was as Parish Priest of St John the Evangelist at Riverstone and he describes the people of the parish as “the salt of the earth”.

When the Diocese of Parramatta was established in 1986 he had the option of staying where he was and transferring to the new diocese or taking up an appointment in the Archdiocese of Sydney. “I felt Western Sydney would be needing clergy, so I decided to stay,” he said.

Continuing reading full story at the Catholic Outlook site

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