True friends share everything – even the emotional day they are ordained priests. Fr Thomas Zaranski and Fr Damien Everitt first met in 2015 as seminarians at Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo.
They took their friendship to the next level when Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge ordained both men priests on Friday, 29 June 2018, the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, at the Cathedral of St Stephen. “It’ll be a day we remember for the rest of our lives,” Fr Thomas said.
It was an almost surreal moment for Fr Damien who has been thinking about his ordination day for more than 25 years. The 43-year-old first entered the seminary as a young teenager in 1992. “Having done four years of the journey at that stage, I just felt that I was a bit too young to be going forward for the priesthood at the time,” said Fr Damien.
He left the seminary in 1996 to pursue a career in social work. After establishing a solid career as a social worker, Fr Everitt took another break to drive buses for the Brisbane City Council. But the thought of the priesthood still lingered. “I always felt the calling had never left me, I always felt I had something to offer the Church for me in the future,” Fr Damien added.
In 2015, around 23 years after first entering the seminary, Fr Damien returned to Holy Spirit Seminary to complete his priestly studies. At that stage Fr Thomas had already completed three years of priestly formation, having joined the seminary on February 5, 2012.
Having thought about becoming a priest as a young boy, Fr Thomas said the decision became clear during the ordination of Brisbane priest Fr Nigel Sequeira.
“I remember my first ordination was Fr Nigel Sequeira, and that was just the year before I went to the seminary. That was a really powerful moment for my own vocation discernment, to come to an ordination.”
As he prepared for his own ordination, Fr Zaranski prayed for the young men who might be watching him make the commitment to serve the Church for the rest of his life.
“I’m sure they’ll be, God willing, guys in the congregation who will be thinking about priesthood and thinking about coming to the seminary. Hopefully, this will be a moment for them.” Fr Thomas said.
During their seminary days, Fr Thomas and Fr Damien formed a close brotherhood – they even shared a holiday to New Zealand together. But their ordination day will be the most memorable date in their friendship.
“It’s a funny feeling though,” Fr Damien said. “The moment has come.”
Aside from the nerves that priests-to-be feel, Fr Thomas said he also felt “a sense of inadequacy.” “A lot of thanks too because just today on my phone and my email, people are sending me kind messages,” he said. “And all those people have played a role in getting me to this point. You can’t do it on your own, you realise that from the very start and when you get to here, you think so many people have touched my life. It’s just so beautiful.”
Looking back on seven years of generosity and support from people across Brisbane, Fr Thomas is just keen “to give back” through the sacramental life of a priest in Birkdale.
“I feel like in the seminary and the parish I’ve received more than I’ve given. People have been so generous and so I feel in my own way, as best as I can, to give back. This is a role of service and (Fr) Damien and myself are fair dinkum about that.”