29 January 2009: This time last year, Australian Catholic University (ACU National) graduates Christian Stephens and Lewi Barakat were hitting the beach and partying with their friends. Now the 24-year-olds are preparing to enter the seminary in Sydney where they will spend the next seven years studying to become priests.
The good friends met while studying exercise science at the University’s North Sydney campus.
Christian, formerly a personal trainer, said the decision was one that had been in the back of his mind for a long time.
“It was definitely something I tried to ignore at first - the best way to describe it was like a dripping tap, it was always in my thoughts and wouldn’t go away,” the Croydon resident said.
“I used to spend a lot of time clubbing and going out, and although it was a lot of fun… I slowly realised there was a big difference between pleasure and joy.”
"Mid last year I just couldn’t ignore it anymore - God made us with certain traits and for us to be happy we need to fulfil these - I realised that I wanted to give my life to God and the community, that’s what I was made for.”
Auburn resident Lewi Barakat said the decision was not just about becoming a priest.
“I’ve had an increasing passion for God since my uni days and I’ve always wanted to serve him whatever I did - whether I was working as a personal trainer or in the office,” he said.
“I made the decision just after World Youth Day - but it’s something that I’d pondered throughout my youth and become more open to in the last two or three years.”
Lewi said his decision to become a priest was initially hard for many of his friends and family to understand.
“It was challenging for most people, and just as much a call to them to trust in God and in my decision. My parents’ faith especially has grown with my decision which was great for me to see.”
Lewi and Christian will enter the seminary next week where they will study for the next seven years.
“It’s a long time but it will be an exciting time,” Lewi said.