By Caroline Smith and Jamie O’Brien
For Father Neville Connell, joining the priesthood of the Catholic Church was part of a long and winding journey of faith, which culminated in his ordination in August at Mt Lawley Parish, St Paul’s Church.
Fr Connell is a member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, which encompasses people formerly of the Anglican faith in Australia who seek full communion with the Catholic Church.
He said the celebration of faith had been a strong feature of his life early on.
“At the age of around nine, I began to tread the well-tried path of Anglican boys – I became a choir boy, complete with Eton collar, was confirmed at the age of 11, and in due course was an altar server, member and office bearer of parish youth groups,” Fr Connell said.
“The moment when I decided that I had to act on my vocation was when we were challenged by our Rector at Evensong to consider whether God might be calling us to the Anglican Order. I remember saying out loud, in the choir, ‘Yes!’
Fr Connell spent five years at St Michael’s House in the Adelaide Hills training for the priesthood (Anglican), and said it was an enriching time.
“These were demanding years – long days, much worship, study and housework. The challenge above all was to let go, not to allow oneself to be moulded so much, as to allow oneself to be remade by God through the formation.
“This meant learning rather a lot about humility. The highpoint was my ordination as an Anglican Deacon in 1965 and Priest in 1966.”
But after 20 years serving as an Anglican priest, Fr Connell began to consider a significant change in his faith life.
“As a result of unhappiness at the direction in which Anglican thinking and practice were moving, I resolved that I must be received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church in 1987,” he said.
“For various practical reasons I had to return to Anglican ministry, until in 2008 I was welcomed back to the Catholic Church.
“I never lost my sense of vocation to priestly ministry, and kept up the prayer discipline of Office, Eucharist and reflection. Even so, I was overwhelmed when I was contacted by Monsignor Entwistle of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, and asked to consider ordination as a Catholic priest for the Ordinariate.”
Following this encounter, he was ordained a Deacon on 15 July and priest on 19 August this year, and said he was looking forward to continuing to serve on the altar and in the community.
“I look forward most of all to celebrating the Mass, whether in the peace of weekday mornings, or the joy, beauty and music of the Ordinariate Mass, and to preaching the Catholic faith in a time of great confusion,” Fr Connell said.