Catching the sushi train to priesthood

Fr Justel Callos (ABC News/Jane Cowan)

To his parishioners he’s "Fr Justel", but to his gym mates he’s just "Tel". Melbourne priest Fr Justel Callos hopes his generation can restore the Church’s “tarnished brand”. Source: ABC News.

At 29, and a first-generation migrant from the Philippines, he busts just about every stereotype associated with the priesthood. He’s not old. He’s not white. He’s not even remotely stuffy.

He is disarmingly open. Open about his own struggles. Open about the Church’s struggles.

“I’m just me. But maybe people will think, ‘You know what? Maybe there are other types of priests’.

“It’s just a shame that what people hear from us is that we’re against this, against that. It’s sort of moralising,” Fr Justel said. “But we’ve got this great message of love and understanding.

“I think that’s why a lot of the parents send their children to Catholic or Christian schools. Not necessarily that they go to church on Sunday but because that’s the ethos we have, the Christian principles. And sometimes that can be a little bit forgotten when we have those hot-button issues and debates.”

Justel Callos was 17 when he migrated to Australia.

Fresh out of high school, vows of celibacy and obedience were the last thing on his mind. He was thinking about university, relationships, maybe making lots of money one day. All the trappings of living in a wealthy country. Nothing like the $20,000 salary and simple life of a priest.

But across the road from the sushi train where he worked in the Melbourne CBD was St Francis’ Church. It was in the pews on his lunch breaks that he felt the stirrings of a calling. By the time he was 18 he had entered the Corpus Christi seminary in Carlton.

Looking back, it makes more sense.

“I’ve got an uncle who’s a priest and an aunt who’s a nun. It’s sort of in my DNA. “I have always had a sense of God in me, even as a boy.”

His mother remembers him dressing up as a priest and pretending to say Mass. At the time of his ordination in 2015, Fr Justel was the youngest priest in Australia.


The good priest (ABC News)

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