40 years a Priest – Archbishop Christopher Prowse
WHEN DID YOU FIRST EXPERIENCE THE CALL TO THE PRIESTHOOD?
This is always a question hard to answer. A vocation to the priesthood (or religious life, marriage or remaining single for the Lord) moves us into the depths of the mystery of God’s love for us.
No doubt growing up in such an affirming Catholic culture in my family, schooling and parish life had a subliminal effect on my outlook to life. I always wanted to become a committed Catholic in whatever I gave my life to. This would be to follow the inspiring example of the wonderful Catholics in my earlier life.
Perhaps it was in the silences in life that have always attracted me that I felt first attracted to the priesthood. I have always enjoyed the silences of Churches with the Blessed Sacrament present. Also, strangely, the silent wisdom that comes from visiting cemeteries!
In these times on my own I did feel that the silent language of God was turned up in volume. I listened. The depth of God visited my depth of being. The invitation to the priesthood was whispered deep within.
This vocation was co-discerned over the many years I was a student in the seminary. This happened in so many ways. I encountered Jesus in a special way in those years. The flame still burns strongly. Only Jesus. Jesus will be all I have when I die. Jesus is my enough.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE DIOCESAN PRIESTHOOD?
Good question. Once I felt strong enough to step out and choose what Jesus had chosen for me, I started looking at all the different types of priests there are. I recall being truly amazed that there were so many possibilities.
I made a little personal methodical study of it all. The Missionary Orders seemed compelling – especially the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Columban Fathers. However, when I read of priests that live in the neighbourhood with their parishioners and commit themselves to a local bishop, I felt I found a “home”. They were generally called Diocesan Priests. In fact, I had lived all my life to that moment in such a parish without knowing of how our parish priests described themselves.
Yet God has shown a sense of humour with me over these 40 years of diocesan priesthood! I have spent over 15 of those years out of the diocese I chose – the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
The Diocese of Sale and the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn have been unexpected gifts to me. My time as Administrator of the Diocese of Wagga Wagga was unexpected. My earlier theological studies in Rome too were complete surprises.
ARE THERE ANY HIGHLIGHTS OVER THE LAST 4O YEARS?
Immediately what comes to mind and heart are the extraordinary saintly people I have met on this journey as a missionary disciple of the Lord.
In every parish, diocese and placement I have been given there are inspirational Catholics to be found. The ones that are prominent in my life have been the humble ones with lowly profiles. In meeting many Catholic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders my life as an Australian has been immeasurably enriched.
Quite often inspiration has come from the elderly, the youth and migrants. Priests too, especially those from overseas, have been good examples to me of the dis-possession of ego-driven personal agendas. Some Bishops, Priests and Religious Brothers and Sisters are unforgettable in their profound humanity and Christian zeal.
In my encounters with leaders of other Christian denominations and other Faiths, I have also witnessed the great presence of the Almighty God.
In all these reminiscences I feel truly gifted. I see the Lord’s blessing to me in their friendships. I have experienced that “The Father is very fond of me” through their warmth.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE FUTURE?
The Church will always be the “temple of the living God” (2 Cor.6/16). She is where the Holy Spirit is completely present. No matter what is to be said of our tepid responses, I truly believe in the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” Church. She is me and I am her.
Being a missionary disciple of hope in the Church is the greatest joy of my life. I thank Jesus for His many blessings on me. I pray for the faith to give every day of my life wholly in His service.
Please pray for me sometimes.
Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Ordained Priest, 16th August 1980.
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne.