Growing up in the Philippines with a politician father and a teacher mother, John Paul Escarlan knew his would be a life of service.
He was ordained a Catholic priest on Friday by Bishop Anthony Fisher at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta, and appointed assistant priest at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst.
"When I was a teenager, my parents would say 'Go to church' and I'd go because I was told; until such time as I said: this is my faith. I embraced it," he said.
"When you wake up the following day after ordination you are still a human being.
Father Escarlan, 29, spent 12 years as a seminarian — six in his home town of Santa Fe on Cebu, and another six in the Parramatta Diocese where he visited parishes in Riverstone, Blacktown, Penrith and St Marys.
The keen basketball and tennis player aims to bring an honest and authentic approach to the priesthood.
Before his ordination, Father Escarlan obtained degrees in philosophy and theology, worked with the deaf community and built houses in impoverished parts of Lima, Peru, during 2013 World Youth Day celebrations.
In keeping with tradition, he will give thanksgiving masses at the parishes he learnt at.
"I'm going to my previous parishes to personally thank the people for their support in one way or another," he said.
"I'm very excited to receive this gift of the priesthood, especially since I've been in formation since I was 16. I feel humbled.
"I am going to my home town and celebrating thanksgiving on my birthday, October 7. Without the gift of life I would not receive the priesthood so I will be thanking especially my Mum."
The priesthood by numbers
■ John Paul Escarlan is one of only three who have been ordained priests in the Parramatta diocese since 2010. The previous ordination took place in June 2012.
■ According to the official directory of the Catholic Church in Australia 2005/2006, there were 3126 priests across the nation.
■ The number of priests declined by about 20 per cent from 1971 to 2005.