Category Archives: Vocation Centre Events


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

Vocations Sunday 2018

You had to be there! The atmosphere of the solemn Mass, the beautiful music and the prayerful reverence of the people gathered around the Lord, marked the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Young people, Consecrated Women, seminarians, and young families gathered with the parishioners of St Benedict’s Broadway in a revamped initiative to pray specifically for Vocations in the family. Bishop Tony Randazzo presided over the day, aided by Fr Thomas McFadden, Vocations Director for the Capuchin Friars, and myself. The celebration was a happy occasion.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2018

This gathering commemorates an historic event that is a central focus of the Vocation Centre year. For the Church in Australia, 2018 marks the 200th year of Eucharistic Adoration in Australia. In 1818, the last Priest in Australia, Fr O’Flynn, left a sole Blessed Sacrament with the Dempsey family in Kent Street, Sydney, before his deportation to England. Without a priest, faithful families gathered at the Dempsey House to adore, praying in silence and song, and supporting each other with the strength they drew from the Lord, in the Eucharist.

The heritage of the Church in Australia is steeped in the events at this family home. This is something that the Vocations Centre is enthusiastic about celebrating 200 years after that time.

With this in mind, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is now especially celebrated with families each year. It is our hope that we will continue our tradition of gathering around our Eucharistic Lord to listen, discern and live as the first Catholics did in 1818. In times of adversity like ours, a witness like those in the Dempsey home is urgently needed. Their witness can inspire a new generation of men and women ready to respond to the call of the loving God. As the words of Pope Francis remind us,

“Even amid these troubled times, the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that God continually comes to encounter us. He is God-with-us, who walks along the often dusty paths of our lives. He knows our anxious longing for love and he calls us to joy. In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern and live this word that calls to us from on high and, while enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness.”(Pope Francis, Message for 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations)

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2018

The family is the first place where each of us learned to listen, to pray, to discern and live for others in mutual love and respect. The family is the most natural place where children are truly themselves in the loving care of their parents. It is here, too, that their hearts are guided towards the supernatural in our Catholic Tradition. And it is therefore the family home that is best placed to nurture a vocation.

In his turn, Bishop Randazzo preached on freedom and its essential place in the act of choosing to do God’s Will in the manner of Christ who “laid down his life out of his own accord” (John 10:18). His homily gave all of us food for thought and encouragement. Later on after a light luncheon, Bishop Randazzo reminded those gathered around him about the irreplaceable dignity of the Family as the Seedbed of Vocations. A vocation is God’s personal invitation to a relationship with Him, which sets you on the path to holiness.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2018

Bishop Randazzo’s address was steeped in examples of God’s personal invitation to a vocation in Sacred Scripture. He illustrated the stories of Moses, Jeremiah and St Paul, among others, of how God’s personal invitation is often in response to a particular need.

“God’s call is always personal. It is not abstract. God names you. It is made to men and women in a given place, and in a given time. It is tangible, recordable and accessible.” He expanded that a call from God is but the beginning. The invitation calls for a response, but then action must follow. “God asks, He invites, and then sends you… A person is called to do something – to lead, to guide, to teach, to go on a mission.”

In the church, the children had a catechesis about Christ and the Eucharist. They moved reverently through the church, learning through the beautiful images in the stained glass windows of the historic parish.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2018

The day concluded with Benediction led by Bishop Randazzo. I am hopeful that next year will see more families getting involved in similar initiatives in their parishes. With the positive feedback from the participants, especially the excitement of the children, I am confident that next year’s gathering will find you being part of it as well.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2018