Father Michael Williams - Parish Priest
Born in Sydney, Father Michael went to school at St Bernadette's Lalor Park, St Joseph's Belmore and St Patrick's Strathfield, owing much to the Sisters of St Joseph and to the Christian Brothers.
Upon completing school, he attended two of the great sandstone institutions in Sydney - the University of Sydney and (as it was then) St Patrick's Seminary, Manly. From 1985 to 1988, Michael worked for the NSW Chamber of Commerce and then for two years as an economist for the Westpac Banking Corporation.
Michael was ordained a deacon in 1988, and a priest in 1989. He worked in Nowra for six years, West Wollongong for eight years, and has been parish priest at St Paul's Camden since new year's day 2003.
His interests include the church, sacred music, current affairs, finance, rugby, rugby league, golf, cricket, Aussie Rules and tennis. He takes a passing interest in many other sports.
As a younger man, Father Michael played rugby until the age of 30 and cricket until entering the seminary as a 21-year-old. He continues to play golf at his home club of Camden Lakeside which is a beautiful quintessentially Macarthur course designed by the legendary Peter Thompson. Because of urban development the course is now rather unfortunately under reconfiguration.
Father Michael loves Australian culture though laments that religious practice and moral values are not somewhat stronger. He admits to having a low threshold of tolerance for irreverence and casual conversations during the church's sacred ceremonies. In terms of personal health he has a keen interest in personal fitness though far less a dedicated commitment.
As a priest of over 28 years, he looks back upon a three-month Vatican II sabbatical programme in 2002 in the beautiful grounds of the Archdiocesan Seminary of San Francisco as a standout experience - a real highlight.
Fr Joseph Nguyen - Assistant Priest
Fr Joseph Nguyen has just arrived to the Diocese of Wollongong at the beginning of 2015 from the Order of the Friars Minor Conventual, a religious community in which he was a member for thirty years.
Since his ordination to the Priesthood in August 28, 1993, he has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Mark’s, Dingley, Assistant in the Parish of St Joseph’s, Springvale in Victoria; eight years as Parish Priest at St Francis of Assisi, Warrawong and St Marys, Berkeley and he has just completed a five year term as Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Rosary, Kellyville, NSW.
Fr Nguyen was born on the 5th November, 1962 and grew up in a Catholic family of fourteen children, of whom ten survive to this day. Apart from a priest and a religious sister in the family, his other siblings are married and between them have 41 children. His widowed mother, who is in her early 90's, is surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in Hue, Vietnam.
On May 31st, 1979, they waited until dark to pack themselves with 160 others, squatting knees-to-chin, in a three by nine metre boat. They knew the risk of storms, starvation, pirates and death but prayed they wouldn’t encounter them. Unfortunately, they weren’t so lucky.
After three months at sea, Fr. Nguyen and 56 others arrived at Hong Kong and were place in a packed North Kaitak Detention Centre with thousands of refugees. In June 11, 1982, after a long screening processed, he arrived to Sydney as a Refugee and stayed in his first home at East Hills Migrant Centre.
If the trials of the past had taught Fr. Nguyen anything, it was true compassion for the suffering of others, and a great source of strengthening to his Priestly vocation and his ministering to God’s people.
Father John Whitty - Pastor Emeritus
Father Whitty has lived a blessed life with wonderful parents and sisters. His childhood was lived at a time when family members needed to pull together. Father was taught by the nuns and brothers, and only one lay teacher. Over this period of time, the Church, Sunday Mass and family prayer were central.
Father Whitty left school in 1955 and for two-and-a-half years worked as a telephone technician. In 1958 he entered the seminary for the Franciscans in the first instance, but in 1961, moved to St Columba's to study as a diocesan priest for the Diocese of Wollongong. Father was ordained on 7 December 1968.
For the first ten years of his priesthood, he was in parishes on the coast, mainly six years at Bulli. He arrived in Camden as administrator on 28 June 1977, though Monsignor Fahy was still the parish priest. Father Whitty became parish priest the following year.
Father Whitty continues to visit the children each Wednesday in their classes at St Paul's school, a practice that has stretched for over 30 years. Only recently at the petrol station a young dad was filling up his car with petrol. He said hello to Father Whitty and mentioned that he still remembers his visits to the classroom when he was at school, even relaying a story that Father Whitty had shared. Father's prayers are often offered for the children in our Catholic schools that their lives will be as blessed for them as they have been for him.
The parish of Camden was very small compared to the present day. Monsignor Fahy had 600 families on his books. He knew most of his people by name. Since then the parish has grown.
During this time the support of Bishop Murray was crucial. He supported parish loans and the parish purchases of land. The crucial support of many parishioners was also very necessary. Their talents provided the wherewithal, the scope, the planning and the beauty of the Church.
Their talents were essential. Father Whitty modestly acknowledges that his “bit" was to discern when agreement was reached, and to simply say “yes".
Father Sean Cullen - at Camden from 1986-1988 - moved and served at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral for many years almost entirely as administrator and dean, and since 2002 has been parish priest of Bowral and Mittagong.
Father Leo Duck - at Camden from 1988-1990 - moved on to a variety of assignments throughout the diocese and studied spiritual theology for two years in Rome. He has been assigned since 2002 to the parochial district of Vincentia in the parish of Nowra.
Father Mark O'Keefe - at Camden from 1991-1992 - moved to take up positions at Wollongong and Gwynneville and then as parish priest, firstly at Ruse and then at Unanderra since 1997. He now works at Kiama
Father David Catterall - at Camden in 2001 - moved around the diocese in Nowra, Shellharbour and Rosemeadow, before being assigned as parish priest of Albion Park in 2006. He became the first PP of the newly established parish of Oran Park in 2015.
Father Mark De Battista - at Camden from 2007-2010 - has travelled to Rome to undertake many years of study in Sacred Scripture which includes studies in Aramaic, ancient Greek and Hebrew. He has been the Administrator of Picton since 2017
Father Richard Healey - at Camden from 2010-2014 as assistant Priest. Now PP at Albion Park.
Other priests still working who have exercised their priestly office in Camden include Father Peter Caruana (now PP Ingleburn) Father David O'Brien (now PP West Wollongong) Father Allan Hartcher (now retired at Waverley), and Father Damien Ellis (now in the Military Ordinariate).