Getting to know our new Chaplain

Photo above from FIO Photography

written by Fr Mark Baumgarten

Let me begin by thanking Fr Brennan for the great work he did as CYM chaplain over the past three-and-a-half years, and also to thank Anita and the CYM staff for being so welcoming.  It’s a great joy to take on this role, and to join you in the great adventure of faith that is ours as the Lord’s disciples.  You should know that I’ve been praying for you for years, and I look forward to getting to know each of you as time goes on.

A few words of introduction.  I was born and bred here in Perth, and I grew up in Belmont.  I was into basketball in a big way when I was younger, but dreams of athletic stardom eventually gave way to other things.  After high school I worked as a children’s entertainer for a number of years, first hosting birthday parties and then working at Scitech.  I have also worked as a musician, playing keyboard in a couple of bands, and playing background piano on river cruises.  I studied history and anthropology at university, and I did a bit of travel.

As for faith, I was brought up Catholic, but in my late teens I drifted from the Church for a while and underwent a period of prolonged spiritual searching.  Through the grace of God, I was slowly led back into the Catholic fold – and as my faith deepened, and after considerable discerning, I eventually felt called to apply for the seminary.

With Fr Anscar McPhee, OSB (New Norcia)

Thankfully, I was accepted, and I spent my first three-and-a-half years at St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford.  I was then sent to Rome to complete my studies at the Pontifical North American College.  I spent five years there—surrounded by Americans—which explains why my accent might occasionally sound a little strange!

I was ordained to the priesthood on the 2nd of August, 2014 at St Mary’s Cathedral, after which I had one more year in Rome finishing off my post-graduate studies in Sacred Theology.  I returned to Perth for good in mid-2015, and was appointed as an assistant priest at Our Lady of the Mission parish in Whitfords, as well as the assistant Vocations Director for the Archdiocese.  At the beginning of 2017 I was appointed as assistant priest at Our Lady of Grace parish in North Beach, where I continue to serve in addition to the CYM chaplaincy role.

I want you all to know at the outset that I love you, and I promise to do my best to show that love for you in everything I do.  I must also ask for your patience and forgiveness in advance, as I know that I am far from perfect and that I am sure to make my share of mistakes.

My one goal in my ministry at CYM is to help you all to become saints!  As St Augustine famously wrote, “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”  All of us have been made for eternal life with God – in other words, all of us are called to be saints.

And though this task might seem daunting, Jesus makes it very simple for us.  Notice when he called the first disciples, he didn’t say “be good” or “be nice” or “be respectable” – he simply said “follow me”.  Being a disciple is not first and foremost about a particular moral code or set of beliefs, as important as these things are.  No, the primary task of a disciple of Jesus… is to follow him.  Jesus models the path of holiness for us, and he calls us to follow his lead.

Of course, whether or not we admit it, we all tend to stray from the path in various ways.  So much in our world stands in need of renewal.  So many hearts have been handed over to hatred and despair; so many lives to the enticements of evil.  And so in this present season of Lent, the Lord calls to us, just as he called to the first disciples on the lake, and says, “Follow me!”

If we are heading down a path of entitlement or habitual sin, or if we remain in the pain of past hurts, refusing to forgive – the Lord gently calls to us and says, “Follow me!”

If we have closed our eyes to the plight of the suffering ones in our midst – the lonely, the outcast, the homeless, the unborn – the Lord asks us to open our eyes and says, “Follow me!”

And if we have closed our hearts to hope—if we have become cynical with life, or grown weary in our praise of God, or just find the trials and tribulations of life too much to bear—the Lord gently caresses our overly-cautious hearts and says, “Follow me!”

The Kingdom of God advances today—just as it did 2,000 years ago—by the generous response of believers to the Lord’s call.  And the path towards the renewal of our city and our world begins in each one of our hearts.

I look forward to joining you on this great adventure of faith!  May our gracious God bless each one of you.

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FUN FACTS ABOUT FR MARK!

One of the following is not true – can you guess which one? (The answer will be given next issue!)

  • He has met the pope
  • The first wedding he celebrated was his sister’s
  • He is 194cm tall
  • He has eaten frog, warthog, and kangaroo
  • He did not have a mobile phone prior to entering seminary
  • He has three university degrees
  • His favourite piece of music is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
  • He is left-handed
  • He can juggle
  • He loves Jesus Christ and his Church!