Every year on Good Shepherd Sunday—which is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations—seminarians from Corpus Christi College visit parishes across the Archdiocese of Melbourne to share their vocation stories and invite discerning men to the College’s Enquiry Day.

This year, on Sunday 21 April, Josh McDermid, a sixth-year seminarian, spoke at the parish of Keilor Downs, where he reflected on how he was, over the course of his discernment, torn between two loves.

‘Prior to entering the seminary, I was a secondary school teacher in Adelaide’s suburbs,’ he said. ‘While I loved my career in teaching, I experienced a growing sense that I had to discern who God was calling me to give my life to, whether that be through marriage, religious life or the priesthood.’

With the guidance of the priests in his life, he began to ask himself important questions about a possible priestly vocation.

‘Do I have a commitment to prayer? Do I have a devotion to the Eucharist? Am I an able communicator? Can I teach people about the faith? Can I successfully study theology and philosophy? As I answered these questions in the affirmative, I could feel myself being led to a priestly vocation and entry to the seminary,’ he explained.

At the heart of every vocation, he said, is the calling to lay down one’s life for the sake of others, just like Christ the Good Shepherd. He sensed God was calling him to give his life through the priesthood. But letting go of his teaching career wasn’t easy.

I was drawn by the unshakeable desire to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice to God and to bring the Eucharist to God’s people.

Fortunately, a priest he knew was able to guide him into the understanding that when it comes to discerning a vocation, the choice is rarely between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ options.

‘Sometimes in life there are choices between two goods, and you have to choose which one is primary. Hence, I concluded that I had to choose the good of the priesthood over my teaching career.

‘Ultimately, I was drawn by the unshakeable desire to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice to God and to bring the Eucharist to God’s people,’ he said.

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Joshua McDermid. (Casamento Photography.)

Ian Vergel, another sixth-year, pointed to two highly influential people in his life who shaped his decision to enter the seminary. The first was Pope John Paul II, and the second Fr Dishan Candappa, who currently serves as Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

In his early 20s, Ian read a biography of the life of Pope John Paul II and was ‘immediately’ captivated by the man. ‘I was inspired by his creativity in bringing God to young people,’ he said. ‘His hikes and adventures with young people, teaching them about the virtues, the Catechism, love and relationships … [His] life stirred within me the desire to live life to the full.’

Fr Dishan Candappa was Ian’s spiritual director from 2016 to 2018 while he was discerning his vocation.

‘Fr Dishan was extremely helpful,’ he recalled. ‘He never pushed his ideas onto me or forced me to be a priest. He encouraged me to grow in the spiritual life, particularly developing a habit of prayer which eventually led me to grow in my vocation. His way of ministering, service and journeying with others is something I wish I can borrow or even take from his priestly ministry going forward.’

‘One day, if, God willing, I become a priest, I hope Fr Dishan will be able to vest me at my ordination and celebrate my first Mass with me,’ he said.

Another seminarian inspired by the witness of Pope John Paul II is Rhys Lowther, who spoke at St Peter’s parish in Epping. He reflected on the late pope’s decision to enter seminary covertly during the Communist occupation of his country in 1942.

There was no one moment.

‘Little did he know at the time that this simple ‘yes’ to God would make him a father to billions of souls and change the world.’

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Ian Vergel (right) during World Youth Day Lisbon in 2023.

For his part, Rhys said, ‘there was no one moment’ when he realised he was being called to the priesthood. ‘Rather, I wanted to become a priest after considering how God had been working in my life and, moved by his grace, decided that I could best serve him and save souls as a priest,’ he explained.

However, Rhys did express a particular love for the meaning of the priesthood. Not only was he surrounded by young and good priests ‘living their life to the full’, but he also felt passionately about the Church’s understanding that through the priest, the sacramental presence of Christ is made available to God’s people.

‘The call to Holy Orders is not for the sake of the priest but rather is for the service of God’s people,’ he said. ‘Each of us needs God’s grace to be a saint, and Christ instituted the sacraments to give us this grace. The priesthood exists to make others holy.’

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Rhys Lowther (centre) during World Youth Day Lisbon in 2023.

John Vespa is another sixth-year seminarian who reflected on his experience in the seminary. He entered Corpus Christi in 2019, when he was 35 years old.

The most important thing I would say is trust: trust in the call.

‘Having the opportunity to be in the seminary is a blessing,’ he said. ‘Seminary formation is usually for seven years, and life in the seminary is very fruitful. We get to have prayer in common with my brother seminarians and also the fathers; meditation; adoration; Mass; confession; plus other things that help us all grow as a community.’

‘If I was to speak to a young man who is discerning the priesthood, the first thing and the most important thing I would say is trust: trust in the call, take that to prayer and listen. Listen to the voice of the Shepherd. It is only through that discernment and prayer you will be able to hear the voice of God and live your vocation to the full.’

The seminarians encouraged people to pray for an increase in priestly vocations.

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John Vespa. (Casamento Photography.)

Seminary Enquiry Day for Corpus Christi College is on Sunday 19 May.