Meet Fr Noel Custodio
Image: Fr Noel Custodio
“A priest first and foremost needs to fall in love with God. We mustn’t rely on our own strength but allow ourselves to be used, and strengthened with the grace of the Holy Spirit. In order to love people we must first give ourselves first and foremost to the Sacrifice of the Mass…”
Fr Noel Custodio is a self-named “baby priest”, having been ordained just a year. Now an alter Christus, he works as an Assistant Priest at Sydney Harbour North, Mosman and the University of Technology.
Just recently the staff at the Development and Fundraising Office were blessed to have an in-depth interview with Fr Noel, and get a glimpse into the life of our Sydney seminarians.
Fr Noel’s calling to the priesthood was, like for many, something realised after a journey of self-discovery.
Despite being raised in the Catholic faith, Fr Noel never considered the priesthood as a young man. It wasn’t until his late teen years when he was faced with the challenging questions. “Was my faith something familiar? Something cultural?” he questioned, “Or was it my own?”
These questions, and many more, were partially answered at the momentous World Youth Day event in 2008, Sydney. Alongside 300,000+ young Catholics, WYD 2008 was a pivotal moment in Fr Noel’s journey, transformative, and life-changing. “I finally saw the joy of living out faith and seeking God with my heart”.
Image: Fr Noel reflecting on hiw WYD08 experience
After some time in youth ministry, both in Australia and overseas, Fr Noel realised that his desire for an interior life and grace was gently pulling him towards the depths of the faith. “I had an interior desire to give everything… but as yet, I didn’t know what that meant”.
And, prompted by supernatural grace, one day his path became clear. “I remember a clear and absolutely profound experience. I literally heard the words of God. He said, and I can still hear it, Noel, you are going to become a priest”.
Image: Fr Noel giving Homily at Good Shepherd Seminary in Sydney
Being called to the priesthood is, in some way, like going to confession – the healing sense of being washed away from impurities and beginning completely anwer. “Everything in my life was beginning to make sense. All the confusions, all the journeys. I realised God was, in everything, leading me to this point”.
“And I made the leap! I applied for the seminary”.
A day in the life of a seminarian follows an almost monastic routine of prayer, study, and leisure. At the Good Shepherd Seminary, home of the Archdiocese’s future priests, a typical week consists of morning prayer, classes, private study, and community activities. At different stages of formation seminarians are taught at the Catholic Institute of Sydney and the University of Notre Dame.
And regardless of the business of their schedules, the young seminarians always find time for prayer together in the chapel to end the day.
Image: Night prayer with seminarians at Good Shepherd Seminary in Sydney
“My time in the seminary was one of true growth”, Fr Noel said. “It was a time to learn both how to love, and how to receive love.” When faced with seven years or more of chances to pray and grow in self-knowledge, Fr Noel endeavored to overcome the egoism and pride of fallen human nature, learning to live his life for the service of others.
Now a priest, Fr Noel realises he is certainly still not a “finished product”. Only by submitting to the mercy of God can he lead others to heaven and work for the salvation of souls.
We asked Fr Noel how we, as parishioners, can help our seminarians. His answer was clear: “Prayer! Pray for us always – offer your Masses, your rosaries, any of your offerings”. God, after all, always hears the cries of his children.
But he also implored those around him to continue giving generously to the Charitable Works Fund, which sponsors seminarians through their education and formation.
“The Charitable Works Fund has supported me not simply through the Seminary, but also through experiences I was afforded while studying. One privilege in particular was spending a month in the Kimberleys – effectively the desert of Western Australia – with the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. It was enriching.”
Image: Fr Noel visiting the Vocations Centre in Sydney.
And finally, for those who may be discerning a vocation to the priesthood, Fr Noel had some parting words: “If you feel that call, move on that. Don’t spend all your time in the chapel. Get up! See a spiritual director, go to retreats. Go out into the deep, even if that means having difficult conversations.”
“If God is calling you, He will provide for your needs. You just need to trust”.
To support our seminarians at the Good Shepherd Seminary and future priests of the Archdiocese, please give today!