Category Archives: Catholic Weekly

Roberto Keryakos had his life all mapped out, a career in teaching, a wife, and lots of kids … or so he thought.

As a former student of Sydney Catholic Schools, the self-confessed “cheeky kid” with a voice like an angel was deliberating between a career as an educator or a musician or both until an unexpected event completely changed his career path.

Ready for their Ordination. Deacon Roberto and his fellow Deacons are ready for a life of service as priests. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli.

Spotted by talent scouts in Year 4 at St Raphael’s at South Hurstville, he joined St Mary’s Cathedral College as a chorister where he stayed until he entered the seminary 12 years later.

Throughout his high school years, he was often told he would make a good priest which he laughed off politely saying “thanks but no thanks”.

It wasn’t until he stumbled on the UNSW chaplaincy couch while looking for somewhere to rest in between lectures that he began to think about a vocation and ultimately become part of the furniture in God’s House.

“I must admit I do like my catnaps and found the chaplaincy had a great lounge which was the perfect place for me to have a break in between classes,” he laughed.

Roberto in Kindergarten with his older brother.

“The guys would ask ‘who is that guy that keeps crashing here’ but as I got to know them I was so inspired by them, they had a really vibrant, dynamic presence on campus which I wanted to be a part of.

“I never grew up in youth groups and thought they would be all about jumping for Jesus so wasn’t that keen to join but when I did I was really surprised, they all seemed so normal.

“And the more involved I got the more I wanted it.”

Roberto graduated with a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of music but something inside of him wanted more.


He said God started to talk to him about the priesthood and just as importantly he started to listen.

“I thought, God knows best so it really was a win-win situation,” he said.

“If I try the seminary out and it’s for me great, if it’s not for me I can tick it off the list forever and find a beautiful girl and have lots of kids.

“It just turned out it was for me and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere that could make me happier.

Then and now. Deacon Roberto Keryakos in year one and now. Photo: Keryakos Family/ Giovanni Portelli

“As soon as I entered the grounds I knew I was home, it was where I was meant to be.”

Throughout his discernment, Deacon Roberto has discovered his greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness and said his voice is something he has come to use with greater care.

Guided by his favourite Saint, St Joseph, from whom there are no words in the Bible, he said he has discovered you don’t have to be loud to be heard.

“St Joseph achieved such great things from the background and that’s somewhere I aspire to be,” he said.


“I learned some great lessons from some of the Vietnamese seminarians in particular at the seminary who are very gentle and achieve great things. I am loud and very cheeky which was something I’ve had to address.

“Although at the end of the day all I want to do is help people get to Heaven, that is what I am called to do and makes me very happy.”

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By Marilyn Rodrigues -February 1, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Joy marked the faces of Catholics as the relics of the much-loved St Therese and her parents Sts Zelie and Louis arrive at St Mary’s Cathedral. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Catholics from across Sydney gathered to welcome the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents Sts Zélie and Louis Martin to St Mary’s Cathedral on 1 February.

At the expected arrival time of 4.30pm two WN Bull hearses pulled up to the cathedral steps which were lined with the faithful holding pink and white-coloured roses.

They were a tribute to the ‘Little Flower’ who promised to send a shower of roses in the form of God’s graces after her death in 1897.

Others waited patiently inside and as the two reliquaries, one containing remains of St Thérèse, and a smaller one bearing remains of her parents, were borne in procession down the central aisle, a shower of rose petals fell from the choir loft.

The faithful venerate the relics of St Therese of Lisieux and her parents. Many were present during the first visit of St Therese’s reliquary in 2002. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Despite a heatwave searing across the city people had travelled for up to nearly two hours to greet the saint whose ‘little way’ of spiritual childhood has inspired millions, and to ask for the intercession of her and her parents for themselves, their loved ones, the Church and the entire country.

They queued to touch, kiss or kneel briefly beside the reliquaries with expressions of deep devotion, a few smiles and whispered words, and for some, quiet tears.

St Thérèse’s teaching about the ordinary path to holiness, expressed in her autobiography Story of a Soul is “not rocket science” said Bishop Terry Brady who officially welcomed the relics and presided at Mass.

“In her mind, in the end, it was all about love,” he said.


“All of us in these special days while the relics are here, let’s make use of the opportunity to go back to, or discover, some of the wonderful writings of St Thérèse and her parents.”

Bishop Brady also reminded the congregation that St Thérèse is a patron of the Catholic Church in Australia and that seeking her aid in deepening one’s spiritual life would be a good preparation for this year’s Plenary Council.

Jana El Thoumi and Jane Xie, from the young adults’ group at St Patrick’s Church, Kogarah, said the relic’s visit to Sydney “really exciting”.

“It’s a very special occasion and an opportunity that doesn’t happen often,” said Ms El Thoumi.


“She’s very relatable and beloved by our youth group. She is a saint of humility, which is such a beautiful virtue but not appreciated today when everyone is pushing confidence.”

Some cathedral visitors, impressed by the events, wanted to know what was going on with such obvious deep devotion. Others had already spent time praying with the Martin family relics since their first stop on the national tour last week in Varroville where St Thérèse’s Discalced Carmelite community are based.

They included Angelo from western Sydney who is inspired by the universal application of Doctor of the Church St Thérèse’s ‘method’ of sanctification.

Roses, a symbol of St Therese’s love and care, were offered to the saints in gratitude or taken home for loved ones. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“We don’t have to do great things, only our ordinary daily things with great love,” he said.

Maria Henness of Strathfield had venerated Thérèse’s relics while visiting France last November. She has told all her friends and people she meets to pray with the trio while they are here.

“They have come such a long way to be with us and to intercede for us and for everything that is happening in the world today, for example, the passing of the abortion bill here last year,” she said.

For 11-year-old Ignatius Jee, venerating the Martin family relics brought happy memories of praying by the reliquary of Sts Zélie and Louis with his own parents and siblings at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018. Pope Francis canonised the pair, the first married couple to be raised to the altars, in 2015.

A few people told The Catholic Weekly they were intending to stay late or return overnight during the all-night vigil or early in the morning to pray with the much-loved saints minus the crowds.

After 24 hours at the cathedral, the relics begin their pilgrimage around the Sydney archdiocese with the first stop at St Michael’s Church, Belfield, followed by St Aloysius Gonzaga Church, Cronulla.


By Peter Rosengren -August 3, 2019

Sydney’s newly-ordained Fathers (from left) Miguel Campos, John Jang, William Chow, Joseph Murphy, William Loh OP, Moises Tapia Carrasco and Ronnie Maree pose for the camera after their ordination to the priesthood in Sydney on 3 August. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

On a cold, bright late Winter morning today Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP filed into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney accompanied by 138 priests; by the time he processed out, that number had grown to 145.

As Sydneysiders strolled through Hyde Park’s leafy, picturesque grounds just across the road, and with the sound of an outdoors rock band thumping faintly in the background, one of the Church’s most ancient ceremonies played itself out over the next two and a half hours.

Massive crowds

St Mary’s was filled to overflowing with well-over 2000 people as the Archbishop ordained seven men to the priesthood: four from the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, two from the Archdiocesan Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chester Hill and the seventh a member of the Dominican Order, of which Archbishop Fisher is also a member.

It seemed as if half of Sydney had turned up for one of the largest ordinations seen in years.

Fr Joseph Murphy blesses Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP after having been ordained to the priesthood by the Archbishop in St Mary’s Cathedral on 3 August. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

At 9.30am, an hour before the ceremony was set to commence, the Cathedral was already packed. Just half an hour later, hundreds were left standing in aisles and leaning against the towering neo-Gothic sandstone walls and columns of the cathedral, sitting out of sight behind the high altar or in the Cathedral Crypt where they later followed the ceremony on television.

Good-natured members of the congregation who had arrived early found themselves sacrificing seats to the elderly and infirm filtering in as the cathedral accommodated one of the largest crowds it has seen in years.

Fr Moises Tapia Carrasco is hugged by his sister after vesting as a priest following his ordination to the priesthood in St Mary’s Cathedral on 3 August. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Meanwhile, the seven presented to the Archbishop to be ordained seemed more like a quickly-assembled committee of the United Nations – illustrating, in their own way, the changing nature of the face of the Church in Sydney and around Australia.

“Today,” Archbishop Fisher noted in his homily, “I am pleased to be ordaining men of Australian, Canadian, Chinese, Dominican, Irish, Korean, Lebanese, Malaysian and Mexican backgrounds … and,” he quipped, “most exotic of all, one from Brisbane.”

Diverse group represents a changing Church in Australia

Ordained were deacons Miguel Campos,33, from Mexico, Moises Tapia Carrasco, 31, from the Dominican Republic; John Jang, 33, born in Korea; Australian-born William Loh OP, 32, from Quaker’s Hill; Brisbane-born Joseph Murphy, 27, a former Redfield student; Ronnie Maree, also 27, from Campsie and Canadian-born William Chow, aged 34.

Deacons Jang, Murphy, Maree and Chow pursued their studies through Good Shepherd Seminary. Deacons Carrasco and Campos offered themselves for the priesthood in their own countries and were sent to the Neocatechumenal Seminary in Chester Hill. Deacon Loh is a member of the Dominican Order.

As the Litany of Supplication asking the saints to pray for those about to become priests is chanted by the entire congregation, the seven deacons lie prostrate in prayer before the High Altar in St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Like those waiting to be ordained, the diverse congregation ranging from the very young to the very old and seemingly representing every major ethnic group in the country only added to the festive atmosphere.

Meanwhile, in an ancient ceremony stretching back to the beginnings of the Church, each of the candidates was presented to Archbishop Fisher, as their formators publically attested that each had been scrutinised and found worthy of the office of Priest.

The Dominican influence

The occasion was auspicious, in every way a celebration of the priesthood. Today is the Feast of St Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order of which both Archbishop Fisher and newly-ordained Fr William Loh are members.

In early 13th Century Europe, Archbishop Fisher told the congregation in his homily, the Church had already sounded the alarm bell about the low standard of priestly formation, preaching and teaching that often saw priests ordained as mere distributors of sacraments. Often, clergy were poorly educated in theology and rhetoric and rarely expected to preach.

Brothers: newly-ordained Fr William Loh OP gives fellow Dominican Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP his first priestly blessing. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

That situation left the baptised faithful prey to all sorts of non or anti-Christian ideas and practices; an intellectually well-formed priesthood was a vital part of the answer, one that could proclaim the Gospel with conviction for the time, he said.

The Dominican Order was a key part of the Church’s response. St Dominic and his band of mendicant preachers united by a passion for contemplating truth and passing on the fruits to others were to have a redefining effect on the priesthood as a vital force in evangelisation.


“My sons, brothers and soon fathers, Miguel, Will, John, Br William, Ronnie, Joe and Moises: what an extraordinary privilege it is to be a voice for the Gospel!” Archbishop Fisher said, “to express the eternal Word dwelling with the Father in the words of men.

“What a grace to unite the tables of the Word and of the Eucharist. To proclaim the kerygma through the cycle of feasts and readings. To open up the sacred text and relate it to people’s daily lives. To teach and catechise in other ways too. Today I welcome you to that order of preachers that are the presbyters.”

New beginning: moments after being vested as a priest Fr Ronnie Maree embraces Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

As the seven candidates lay prostrate before the high altar of St Mary’s, 2000-plus voices almost lifted the roof of the cathedral seeking the intercession of the saints as the Litany of Supplication was chanted.

Then came the moment the congregation had been waiting to see all morning as each deacon came forward and knelt in front of Archbishop Fisher. Laying hands on each, he then prayed the Prayer of Ordination over the whole group.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presents Fr John Jang with chalice and patten, symbols of Fr Jang’s Eucharistic Ministry. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Sydney’s clergy then came forward to pray, one by one – over and for – their new brothers in the priesthood.

A short while later, emotional scenes broke out as each new priest was then vested in stole and chasuble – special vestments reserved for priests – by family members or fellow clergy and embraced.

Fr William Chow is vested as a priest by family members. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The hands that would consecrate the Eucharist, impart blessings, absolve sins in the confessional, baptise new Christians and anoint the sick and dying were then anointed individually by Archbishop Fisher.

Archbishop Fisher was clearly delighted by the occasion. In his welcome he apologised for not having had enough time to accommodate Deacon Maree’s hordes of Lebanese relatives arriving from Bankstown or Lebanon by building a bigger cathedral.

Watched by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and his fellow newly-ordained fellow clergy, Fr William Chow thanks all those who helped bring the new priests to this day. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Concluding the Mass he confessed that for days he had been like a child counting down the sleeps to Christmas; with the seven new priests he felt as if he had received seven “grand Christmas presents” at once.

It was an important moment for Sydney’s priests as well.

Seeking heavenly assistance: the seven deacons prostrate themselves as the Litany of the Saints is chanted by over 2000 people in St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Thanking those who were present for their love and encouragement of their priests, the Archbishop turned to clergy who had participated in the morning’s ceremonies.

“To the priests of Sydney and beyond I say the people of God love you and who you are and what you do for them. Thanks be to God for the priests of Sydney and beyond,” he said to loud and sustained applause.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP concelebrates Mass with the seven new priests. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

As the newly-ordained processed out with fellow clergy before giving their first blessings, wild cheers broke out throughout the thronging crowds.

In a horror week for Christians and Catholics that saw Premier Gladys Berejiklian clear the way through State Parliament to enable laws declaring open season on the state’s unborn children, with some critics charging the parliament was becoming a house of death, St Mary’s Cathedral was exploding with joy – and life.

The contrast couldn’t have been clearer.

By Catherine Sheehan – May 8, 2019 

Fr Epeli Qimaqima exposes the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration at Gracefest in 2015. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

From the time he was a little boy, Fr Epeli Qimaqima would ask God on a regular basis what He wanted him to do with his life. He never received an answer but he kept asking anyway.

Then one day, when he had grown into a young man, God finally answered.


Fr Epeli has now been a priest for seven years and says the “inexplicable peace” he felt upon hearing that initial call to priesthood has never left him.

“I never knew such happiness was possible this side of heaven,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

“I never knew it was possible to know so much love in one’s life, from God and from his people.”

Fr Epeli is currently the Director of the Vocations Office for the Sydney Archdiocese.
He grew up in the semi rural village of Naibuluvatu, Kalabu, in Fiji. He is the eldest of four children in the only Catholic family in the village.

Even as a little boy he felt the desire for priesthood. Often, he “played” at being a priest, covering himself with a blanket—with a hole in the middle for his head—that served as a chasuble and using potato chips to represent the Holy Eucharist.

Fr Epeli grew up in a semi-rural area of Fiji.

But it was when he visited a remote mountain village for holidays with his family that the young Fr Epeli first realised the importance of the priesthood. Because there was no priest in the village, Catholics could only attend a Communion service led by a local catechist who was Fr Epeli’s uncle.

“I can still see in my mind that little boy in that church looking at this relative of his and thinking, why is uncle doing that when he’s not a priest? That was my first realisation of the unique role the priest has in the community and his connection with the Mass.

“As I thought more about that I started asking the Lord to show me what he wanted me to do for Him and His people. That prayer became more prominent once I got to Year 6 and whenever I thought about being a priest, that’s what I’d say to God.”

After completing his secondary schooling, Fr Epeli attended teacher’s college in Suva, and that’s where God finally answered his question.

Fr Epeli Qimaqima. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Fr Epeli Qimaqima. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

He went for his usual “Rosary walk” after dinner one evening, praying as he walked around the college oval. He once again asked God the question he’d been asking since childhood,

“Lord, what do you want me to do for you and your people?”

“Being a romantic, I think God chose his moment, because the college is right on the water so there was this beautiful sunset and I heard this very, very quiet gentle voice in the depths of my heart saying, ‘Priesthood. I want you to be a priest’.

I believe that was the voice of God because of the effect it had—an inexplicable peace that is still there.”

But how did he respond to God’s will?

“Well, I said to God, ‘I’ll do whatever you want, whenever you want it, and wherever you want it. But please give me 10 years. I want to finish teacher’s college, I want to work for a while and I want to see my baby sister grow up’.

It was probably the most honest prayer I’ve ever said. And I didn’t think anymore about it. I finished my Rosary and went back to the dormitory”.

God granted Fr Epeli most of his request, giving him nine years before he entered seminary.

“He was generous, he gave me nine. I don’t know how to explain it but I knew God had given me nine years.” After finishing teacher’s college Fr Epeli moved to Australia in 2002 and worked as a teacher until he entered the seminary. He was ordained in 2012.

He says one of the wonderful aspects of priesthood is the privilege of sharing in people’s lives.

“At the heart of it is seeing that someone has been able to have an encounter with God, with Jesus, just by [the priest] being there. Visiting an elderly person in their home, someone who’s lonely, or someone in their sick bed, children at their First Holy Communion.

“The excitement in the faces of children at their First Reconciliation, their fascination, that wow, Jesus really has forgiven them.

“That could only be possible if the priest is there to give the sacrament … I’ve seen God at work in ways that were just beyond me. I think we put God in a box but He’s got the universe in His hands.”

Related story: The power of silence

After his ordination, Fr Epeli served in three parishes—Mosman, Bonnyrigg Heights and Broadway and says priesthood involves a special kind of friendship, with God – and with God’s people.

“It’s got to be one of the highlights of my priestly life so far, the friendship that Jesus offers you and the friendship that the people offer you.”

Being constantly on-call with parishioners, anytime of day or night, to visit death beds, sick beds and family situations, is the demand of children for the love of their spiritual father, he said.

Fr Epeli and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at the Blessing of the Vocations Centre in the Sydney Archdiocese in 2016.

“It’s the demand of children for their father’s love, a spiritual father’s love and care… I could be so tired on a Sunday afternoon but then you get a phone call to say so and so is in the hospital and you go and you return fulfilled, just in time to say the evening Mass again.”

Serving as Director of Vocations over the last three-and-a-half years has been an enormous encouragement for his own vocation, seeing young people coming forward, still wanting to answer God’s call.

Related story: Rediscovering the masculine genius

This year six priests and six deacons will be ordained for the Sydney Archdiocese.

“God really has not abandoned us. I still meet with young people responding to what is in their hearts.”

“Given the circumstances we find ourselves in especially in Australia and around the world, with the actions of a few people in the Church, I think this is a very good opportunity for us to stop and pause and reflect on what the gift of the priesthood is to the Church.

“This is an opportune time to not be too hasty to speak of married clergy or women priests or whatever. This is a time to appreciate and rediscover what the gift of the priesthood is for us to the Church and to the world. Then we will see profound renewal I think in many ways in the life of the Church.

“The Church is a lamp on a hilltop. Thank God it’s still burning. The light is still burning despite the storms of time. So I’m full of hope.”

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Bishop Tony Randazzo blesses Sumner House in Lidcombe. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

A hundred and eighty three years to the day after the first Catholic priest was ordained in Australia, a house of vocational discernment named in his honour was officially opened and blessed in Sydney.

Sumner House in Lidcombe, a residential home for young men discerning their vocation, is named after Fr Bede Sumner, the first Catholic priest ordained in Australia.

Fr Sumner, a professed Benedictine from England, was ordained by Archbishop Bede Polding in Sydney on 12 May 1836.

Mass was celebrated at St Joachim’s in Lidcombe prior to the opening of Sumner House, located next door to the church. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Young men in Sydney seeking to discern their vocation will now be albe live for around 12-18 months in the home named for the pioneering priest. Sumner House accommodates up to ten and is situated next door to St Joachim’s Catholic Parish in Lidcombe.

Appropriately, the opening took place on World Day of Prayer for Vocations—12 May.

It was only discovered after the opening date had been set, and name of the house had been chosen, that 12 May was the exact date of Fr Sumner’s ordination to the priesthood.

Bishop Tony Randazzo, who officially opened and blessed the house, said the coincidence was “a wonderful little sign of divine providence.”

Bishop Randazzo officially opens Sumner House. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

He said Fr Sumner was an example of someone who had struggles in life but still gave himself to the mission of the Church.

“He was quite a remarkable fellow in the pioneer period. He was held up by bushrangers, travelled quite extensively on horseback and was very close to the people.”

Fr Bede Sumner was the first Catholic priest ordained in Australia. He was made a priest on 12 May 1836. PHOTO: Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

The establishment of Sumner House reflects the priority given by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to encouraging and supporting vocations in the Sydney Archdiocese, he said.

“The novelty of this is that it’s a new style of approach with regards to discernment,” Bishop Randazzo told The Catholic Weekly.

“It’s much more comprehensive. It begins with the call to holiness that comes through baptism and it helps young men to see who they are as men, who they are as men before God, who they are as men before others.

Sumner House features many works of art obtained from the Sydney Archdiocese’s archives. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“This house gives us an opportunity to have some young men spend some serious time in discernment, in contemplation, while also being active in the world, and hopefully at the end of the day when they’ve engaged in the process of living there they’ll be able to say, I have a clear sense that God is calling me to be a priest to serve the Church, or God is calling me to be a married man.”

St Joseph has been named as the patron of Sumner House because he is patron of the universal Church and a great role model for men, Bishop Randazzo said.

The chapel at Sumner House. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

The building, originally a Marist monastery, has undergone extensive renovations; it features private bed rooms, a chapel and communal kitchen, dining, study and lounge areas.

Residents will receive pastoral and spiritual support from two directors—a lay man and a priest.

Chris Lee from Sydney Catholic Youth told The Catholic Weekly a place of discernment like Sumner House is needed more than ever to help young men hear God’s call.

Sumner House was originally a Marist monastery. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“In this day and age it’s hard for young people to be able to hear where God is calling them to. So a place like this house is needed which can help them develop as men and help answer those three important questions—who am I as a man? Who am I as a man before God? Who am I as a man before others?”

Mr Lee said the house was set up to allow a lifestyle conducive to growing in faith as well as learnilng life skills such as budgeting, cooking and regular physical exercise.

Many gathered to witness the opening of Sumner House on 12 May 2019 and take a sneak peek at what the new residence has to offer. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“It’s more than just a share house. It’s an investment in your personal and spiritual growth,” he said.

Those staying at Sumner House will benefit from being next to St Joachim’s Church which has perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Several young men who were present at the opening told The Catholic Weekly they were considering submitting an application to live in the house.

The house can accommodate up to 10 residents. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Twenty-three year-old Phil who works as a builder said he was excited by the opportunity the house would provide.

“It’s going to be able to provide a place of community and also a place of brotherhood. But especially a solid place to check out discernment in life, whether it be priesthood, married or single life, whatever it may be.”

University student Dan, said he was also impressed by the house.

Sumner House is designed to foster vocational discernment, community living and general life skills. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“It looks like an amazing way to take action on that call to discernment and start the journey on the path to holiness, just taking that extra step.”

Meanwhile, Andrew, who works as an engineer, said the house was “pretty cool” and would provide a good opportunity to pursue holiness.

“I think the brotherhood would be an awesome, to have a bunch of guys who can support one another in that call to holiness and also to keep each other accountable. Having perpetual adoration available is an awesome thing as well.”

Applications to live at Sumner House are now being accepted and the first residents will move in on 1 July this year.

For more information about Sumner House contact: Sydney Catholic Youth on 02 9307 8152 or the Vocations Centre on 02 9307 8424 or go to