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Son of Canberra brings youthful hope to priesthood

After seven years of study and a joy-filled ceremony at St Christopher's Cathedral in Manuka, Father Paul Nulley, one time Marist College student, on Friday became what is believed to be Australia's youngest Catholic priest.

The 25-year-old, who grew up in Theodore, the middle son of Lou and Gabi Nulley , was ordained at St Christopher's on Friday night by his first seminary rector and mentor, the newly installed Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, who challenged him to ''be a man of God''.

And Father Nulley felt more certain than ever about his decision to give his life to God.

''It was funny how right it felt,'' he said. ''It just felt so natural. This is who I am now.''

The ordination was attended by 115 priests and seminarians. It was followed less than 12 hours later by Father Nulley leading his first Mass, again at St Christopher's, on Saturday.

On Sunday he celebrated Mass with parishioners at Holy Family Church in Gowrie. He couldn't stop smiling because of ''the joy that's been overflowing recently'', he said. ''It was really special.


''Just having that cross-over of leaving the seminary, these people have been my family, and then also getting to celebrate with mum and dad and the rest of the family.''

Father Nulley shared his seven years of study between the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney and Corpus Christi College in Melbourne. The Canberra Times interviewed him more than six years ago in the early stage of his journey.

With the Catholic Church having gone through a torrid time because of priests involved in sexual abuse, Father Nulley said he was still willing to commit to the church and make the necessary sacrifices, including being celibate, because he believed in its higher values and was

energised by the power of prayer. ''When you hear of those scandals, it makes me very angry.

''It is absolutely contradictory to the values of the church,'' he said.

''It's also a very humbling time for the church because it has happened, and it's good that it can be realised what has gone on,'' he said. ''You don't do it because it's easy or nice, but I certainly continue on out of love.''

Father Nulley's academic studies were complemented by pastoral work which included a year spent as a chaplain at the Port Phillip maximum security jail in Victoria.

''One thing about that is how similar seminary is to prison,'' he said, with a laugh.''I guess the only difference, to my mind, is I had 50 of the best people from around Victoria living with me.''

But, more seriously, his work in the jail emphasised what he had learned in the seminary.

''Your time in seminary is to know the human heart,'' he said. ''To know your own and knowing others and knowing the heart of God. Knowing his deep love for everyone, and learning how to communicate that.

''The pastoral work is a great blessing and I'm certainly looking forward to getting into the parish to do more of that.''

Father Nulley will work in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. His first posting is to Cootamundra as assistant priest.

An Essendon Bombers fan, who enjoys a relaxing beer in his down time, Father Nulley said his personality didn't change because he became a priest. ''You don't have to be anyone else or do anything differently,'' he said.

He remembers as a deacon he was asked to bless a pub in the same street as the seminary in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton .

The publican made sure he was at Father Nulley's ordination.

''It's amazing how you touch people's lives in different ways,'' he said.

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