Two men from Christchurch and one from Auckland make up the newest batch of seminarians at Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland.
Jose O’Sullivan, who is studying for Christchurch diocese, is 20 years old. “Which makes me the baby of the seminary,” he joked. Mr O’Sullivan said his family had a big part to play in his discernment. “My family has always been there and very supportive,” he said. “Growing up, I always had a great respect and even love for the priests that say Mass. It’s been in my heart since I was about ten years old,” he said. “I never denied it to myself but I definitely didn’t shout it aloud to the rooftops. It’s my little secret with God.” Mr O’Sullivan said that as a child, he was always teased about becoming a priest when he grew up. After he left high school, he went to Catholic summer school Hearts Aflame and followed that up with a year at the Catholic Discipleship College. “When I finished the year, I knew I had to pursue this calling to be a priest, but for some reason I completely rejected it and went on to studying knowing it was the completely wrong thing to do,” he said. He studied Quantity Surveying for a semester. “Eventually, God caught up with me and said, hey, what are you up to? Kicking and screaming, I went to my parish priest and the vocations director and God has worked his wonders from there,” he said.
Connor Eatwell, 24, is also studying for Christchurch diocese. “When I was younger, my parish priest used to say to me, ‘Connor, you are going to become a priest.’ And I always thought, ‘no way’,” he said. He said his Mum and Dad had big families and he wanted that for himself. “At some point throughout my life, it would come out in prayer. I always said ‘no’ and pushed it to the side,” he said. A cradle Catholic, Mr Eatwell said his faith was developed through high school, especially with Catholic Youth Ministries as well as the Brothers of St John. “Faith grows. And bit by bit you start to follow Christ more closely.” Mr Eatwell has a degree in mechatronics engineering and had worked for two years for a company in Christchurch. He was in a relationship with a woman and was engaged for about four months. He joined Hearts Aflame where he was asked by the vocations director if he wanted to be a priest. “‘Well, funny you should say that, but I’m engaged’,” he recalled telling the vocations director. It was some sort of a turning point for him. Up until then, he had no one to talk to about pursuing priesthood. “I didn’t ‘hear a call’,” he said. “But it’s more a case of stepping out in faith and seeing what God does with your trust.” “I’m still not certain by any means. I’m just trying to take it one step at a time and see where God is leading me,” he said.
Joseph Pham, 24, is studying for Auckland diocese. He said he first thought about becoming a priest when he was 16 years old. “When I see the priest, I think I want to be like him someday,” he said. Mr Pham gained a bachelor’s degree in finance and banking in Vietnam. He received a scholarship to study in Finland, but opted for New Zealand instead. “I didn’t take it and I applied to study in New Zealand just because I saw beautiful photos from my friends on facebook. I was attracted to the beautiful country,” he said. He did several jobs here including being a marketing assistant and working on a dairy farm. All that time, he was “feeling a call from God”. He was associated with the Auckland Catholic Youth Ministry and he would always share their activities with his Vietnamese youth group on facebook. “I just thought I was being a little bit selfish if I just worked for myself,” he said. “I want to do something better for my life. It is a big decision.” He told his parents who are still in Vietnam about his decision. “My Mum was worried and my Dad was a little bit 50/50. I’m the only boy in the family. But he supports me now,” he said. The idea of becoming a priest was something he kept in the back of his mind because there were too many distractions, he said. “My vocation is God’s call. If he kept calling me, I have to answer. I can’t deny it,” he said.