For his first appointment as a parish priest, Father Luke Verrell is settling into the close knit, rural community of Bega’s St Patrick’s Parish.
“This smaller setting has helped build stronger relationships because we see each other everyday, I’m recognised in the street by my parishioners, I buy my milk from them,” he said.
“I like the rural environment, it’s great to drive through the countryside and see your parishioners working, you celebrate rainfall with them and support them during drought.”
Christianity is a community experience, not an individual one.Father Luke Verrell
Fr Verrell admits the first thing he did when he was appointed to the parish by the Archbishop of of Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese on January 1 was get onto his computer and google Bega.
“I’d only been to Bega once before, so I had a lot to learn,” he said.
Becoming a priest in December 2013, Fr Verrell was previously a deakin at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manuka, Canberra.
He said now appointment and his faith has given him a sense of community and belonging.
“My parents immigrated from England, I’ve never had strong roots or family connection to any place, so when I moved to Bega it was easy to pack everything up in a van,” he said.
“But over time, I have found Catholics take on the roots of the religion, I’ve inherited that tradition and embody it and it’s part of my history now.”
In four short months as the parish priest, Fr Verrell already has a number of memorable moments in the role.
“The biggest project so far of course has been the response to the Tathra bushfires, the work of our Vinnies team and the collaboration between the churches of the area was just incredible,” he said.
Fr Verrell also conducted a combined baptism for his Indigenous parishioners, baptising 15 children from one generation as a group on Saturday, April 14.
“It’s not the usual way to do a baptism, and there may not be another one for the next 10 years now, but it was incredible, and a great insight into culture and religion,” he said.
His other great responsibility is being on call for patients at South East Regional Hospital who may request a priest.
Moving in to the residence beside St Patrick’s Cathedral on Gipps Street, Bega, Fr Verrell has become conscious of the history of the Parish he has been appointed to.
“This building is not purpose built for me, it's very big, I don’t even use the upstairs area,” he said.
“But it reflects the forebears of this parish, how they lived and the all work they did before me.”
Fr Verrell is responsible for the churches of Bega, Bemboka, Candelo and Tathra, and hopes to encourage more participation among his parishioners.
“Christianity is a community experience, not an individual one,” he said.