“Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it goes through the heart of a mother.”
Mother’s Day Week
Dear Friends of Holy Spirit Seminary,
I can vividly recall the anxiety I had when I went to tell my mother that I would like to go to the Seminary.
It’s hard to imagine now why I would be apprehensive. But my mother and I were on our own. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. My father died just as I finished school leaving my mother and me with a property to look after in what was then considered the bush outside of Rockhampton.
I’d always had an inkling that I should become a priest, but the seminary was a closed place. A seminarian would have no television, no radio, no newspaper, no telephone. His mail would be opened when it came in and he’d send out his letters open and the staff or the rector would seal. I didn’t feel that I could throw my mother into that situation.
Almost a year later, it became clearer what we would do with the family property and Mum would move to town. So I thought it was time to let her know my wish to join the priesthood and broach the subject of leaving for Banyo in Brisbane.
I was prepared for a number of objections. I expected she would be concerned about who would look after her. When I think about it now those objections spoke more to my own selfishness.
I can still remember where we had the conversation. It was out on the property, on the side of the veranda at night – almost in the dark. I said that I thought I would like to become a priest. Well her reaction bowled me over pretty cleanly as a matter of fact! All she said to me was, “Well if you can’t become a kind priest don’t bother going.”
I’m not sure that I’ve lived up to those words, but it was a wonderful statement. It says everything about my mum – her faith and her generosity.
The same thing happened when I was asked to study Canon Law. The invitation came as a bit of a shock to me. By that stage I was ordained and living back in Rockhampton, my mother was nearly eighty and she’d become dependent on me to do her shopping and pay her bills and things. But my mother never blinked an eyelid about it. She said, “If you’ve been asked to go then you should go – life will work out all right.”
Sure enough, friends did step up to assist her.
Pope Francis has said a lot about the part that women play in the Church, but for seminarians in particular he said,
“Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God,
but it goes through the heart of a mother.”
By this he doesn’t just mean our natural mothers, but our spiritual mothers, and of course through our Mother Mary.
I think this is certainly true for my vocation and my mother. In her own small way she was always an example of incredible goodness and generosity. A lot of seminarians have often stayed at her home – she would content herself all day in the kitchen making jams, cakes and chutneys. I would visit her in the evening and by then she’d given it all away.
And I remember when my mother died – I was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough people at the funeral to carry her out of the Church. Well, we packed out the Cathedral that day. We had over forty priests on the altar. I think that it is as the Latin phrase goes – bonum est diffusivum sui – goodness is diffusive of itself.
I owe a lot to my mother for her support of my vocation. As seminarians, as priests we need support from the whole community of people – mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters in Christ.
Your past support has helped Holy Spirit Seminary prepare and train our seminarians for this important calling.
We have 18 seminarians at Banyo today, and we continue to rely on your generosity to form these men to be Good Shepherds.
Should you wish to make a tax-deductible gift this financial year you can donate online here. Monthly donations are especially welcome and essential to supporting the ongoing mission of the Seminary. There is a Society established, called the Living Faith Society, for anyone who chooses to make a monthly gift.
God bless you and your mother, living or passed away this Sunday. And thank you for your generosity and your support of our seminarians. Please keep them in your prayers.
Monsignor John Grace