An insistent drummer behind the words of the hymn “God Has Chosen Me” at the February ordination to priesthood of Andrew Doohan, emphasised the sense of ‘call’ that was integral to the liturgy, and indeed to Andrew’s story.
God has chosen me…
God is calling me…
To tell the world that God’s kingdom is near…
God’s time is near…
As Bishop Michael pointed out in his homily, Andrew’s call was not one that he could answer instantly. “Some of you may say, ‘It’s a pity he wasn’t ordained years ago when he finished his studies! Why has it taken him so long?’ To say such things is not to understand the process of a call to follow Jesus….The truth is: perhaps Andrew wasn’t ready years ago to respond to Jesus’ call.”
Andrew is the eldest of Tricia and Tony’s seven children and was raised and educated in Casino. Completing his Higher School Certificate in 1985, he worked in banking and finance for several years, then embarked on studies for the priesthood in 1992. While he did not proceed to ordination then, he did gain valuable experience in a variety of church-related fields: ‘chaplain’ at St John of God Hospital Burwood and St Vincent’s Darlinghurst, project manager for a church computerisation project and office administrator at Carlingford parish.
While answering the call was a prolonged process, Andrew can isolate a moment when the notion took hold: “I can remember, clear as day, Sunday evening Mass at the cathedral at Lismore, which was a ‘young people’s Mass’, thinking that priesthood would be something I could do.” Looking back, he sees that diverse experiences – work, study, relationships, travel, pursuing good music and good coffee! – all contributed to his formation, as effectively as the seminary years.
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle appealed because of its willingness to explore and critique ways of being church in the third millennium. Having moved beyond his home diocese of Lismore, Andrew had the maturity to assess where he might feel both comfortable and challenged. “There is a good sense of church here. There is a vision, as the Diocesan Pastoral Plan demonstrates. This is where I should be.”
Andrew spent the last two and a half years, leading to and following ordination to diaconate, in the Parish of East Lake Macquarie (formerly Belmont, Swansea and Windale parishes). The opportunity to test the call to priesthood, day by day, was instrumental in helping him, ultimately, to say ‘yes’. That time also allowed him to get to know the diocese, people and priests, and to feel part of the diocesan community.
Andrew looks forward to ministering in Raymond Terrace and Bulahdelah, with the guidance of parish priest, Fr Derek Garner. He will particularly relish exploring the possibilities that liturgy offers. In gaining his Masters degree, he majored in liturgy, so the parishes where he serves will certainly benefit from his expertise.
Addressing the concern of declining Mass attendance and parish involvement, Andrew is quick to cite the fact that “Sunday is just another day – people work, shop, play sport – so parish and church are pushed into the background. You have to admire those families who say ‘Sunday is a priority for family and church, everything else comes after that.’ Of course, for people to make this call, parishes have to have vibrant liturgy.”
While Andrew is very well qualified academically for priesthood, he recognises that it is at the local level that most people experience church, and so it is the day to day rhythm of parish life that you need to “get right”. When I spoke to him just after ordination, he was full of anticipation for the ‘day to day’ experiences that priest and people share. An innate sense of balance is expressed in a quotation from Karl Rahner that appears on his emails: Complete personality is rooted in the genius of the heart, not of the intellect.” "Complete personality is rooted in the genius of the heart, not of ne genius of the heart, not of the intellect" -
While he admitted that there were always doubts and questions, “There is a powerful sense that this is what I’m supposed to do. The day I stop questioning is the day I’m ready to be rolled into the grave, because the questions allow me to say ‘yes’, again and again and again….for me, nothing else makes sense.”
Should anyone require sudden medical assistance, Andrew will be able to minister in a practical sense, for he is a keen member of St John Ambulance First Aid Services!