My name’s Stephen Howard, I’m a 26 year old seminarian for the Archdiocese of Sydney, studying at The Good Shepherd, and I’ve been welcomed graciously by Father Kim into the presbytery of St Joseph’s to continue my studies and formation during this confusing time.
I grew up with strong formation in the faith in Northwest Sydney, but after leaving school and moving out of home, my personal faith couldn’t bear testing, and for many years, Christ and His Church were essentially irrelevant to me; I was too interested in my own story, in being liked by everyone I met, and in solving my own problems.
After many long years, I was halfway through studying to become a high school art teacher, when I began to recognise that I wasn’t enough. That everything I had built for myself – no matter how fun or impressive – had failed to make me a good man, or even a healthy, balanced person. I needed something more. I could have anything I wanted, but still there was always something missing. Some-One missing.
So, I took a semester off, I travelled Europe, and eventually found myself at my parents’ farm in northern Victoria, with the beauty of Creation all around me and a lot of time to think. After realising my deep desire to be a good man – and a good father someday – thinking became making changes in my life, and this ended in prayer.
I prayed to St. Joseph of course, the patron of manhood and fatherhood, the very image of the Father on earth. He wasn’t God, and he wasn’t the Immaculate Mary, he was just a man who did his best, quietly and courageously – even failing sometimes. And he answered my prayer, breaking open my heart at the thought of the Child Jesus resting against his heart – my heart. He introduced me to his wife through the Rosary, and she too broke open my heart, and I received the Holy Spirit in a profound way. She led me to the sacrament of Love and Mercy – Reconciliation – and I received her Son, Christ Himself in the Eucharist again not long after.
The following years were intensely difficult as I strove to say yes each day to whatever God was calling me to: uni chaplaincy, conferences, retreats, mission trips; but eventually I learned to begin to let go, and to allow Him to work in me, and to stop trying to control my life. This lead not to a wife and children like I’d planned, but to the seminary and a different kind of fatherhood.
So here I am again, a refugee under the protection of my patron and yours: St. Joseph. I hope to meet many of you, but know that you are in my prayers, particularly when I have the privilege to serve the mass in your beautiful church, and I ask you all to keep me and my vocation to fatherhood in your prayers as well. Stay Hopeful, and remember we are all one Body in Christ, embraced by the Father, and the Spirit burns in us.
Also if you want to, you can reach out to me for any reason, I’d love to talk about growing in the faith or discerning vocations, and I’d like to be involved with the youth group too (maybe we could pray together online?). You can email me at: email@example.com
(If you’re under 18, be sure to have express permission from your parents/guardians and cc them into any email you send.)