The Southern Cross The Southern Cross

Read the latest edition. Latest edition

From Poland, with love


When Fr Roman Palma looked out at the congregation gathered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on April 28, a sea of familiar faces looked back at him. Approximately 400 people gathered to celebrate his 50th priestly ordination. Fr Roman spoke to KATIE SPAIN about his journey from Poland to Adelaide.

Print article

As a young boy growing up in a small village in Poland, Fr Roman had plenty of freedom to explore.

The exuberant youngster and his dog Finnika spent hours exploring the countryside.

“This developed into a love of nature,” he said. “That’s actually how my vocation started growing.”

When WWII ravaged Europe, Catholic faith provided the family with strength and resilience.

“My father was taken into captivity as a soldier and treated as a prisoner of war,” Fr Roman said.

“Later, he was sent to Germany to work on a farm. My mother Anna was a dressmaker and was very busy working at home day and night to provide food and shelter. It was quite a challenge, but she did it; all the while her faith grew stronger.”

Anna was a very devout woman who attended Mass every day at 7am.

“Summer, winter – all year long. We lived 600 metres from the church and I was overly energetic at the time so my mother sent me to the altar so that she could pray quietly.”

By the time Fr Roman was four he was an altar server.

“It was wonderful and because I was always at church, I rose through the ranks quite quickly,” Fr Roman said.

That’s how my vocation grew. Obviously, there were challenges and as a boy I’d try to envisage a different trade – like being a pilot – but I had wonderful parents.

“They were lovely and supported me in my vocation. My sister was 14 years older than me and was also like a mum to me. When I joined the seminary, she was in the same parish and would look after my washing and sometimes gave me a piece of cake. I was very blessed to have her.”

Fr Roman also had an older brother, “a good man and a very dedicated doctor”, and a sister who is 10 years older than him and who he will see when he visits Poland later this month.

He described his father Leon as a positive role model.

“My father was born in 1909 and died in 1987,” Fr Roman said.

“I had a wonderful father. He worked very hard, was gentle, and was very respectful to my mum. When he returned from war, he attended evening classes to improve his education because previously he’d had none at all.”

Fr Roman was ordained in Krakow on May 1 1974 as a priest of the Congregation of the Resurrection Fathers.

After serving in various churches across Poland for eight years, he arrived in Adelaide in 1982.

Here, Fr Marian warmly welcomed him into Ottoway parish where Fr Roman’s first appointment was as an assistant parish priest at the St Maximilian Kolbe Church, Ottoway.

Over the next 42 years, Fr Roman served as a priest across the Adelaide Archdiocese, including assistant parish priest at Glenelg from 1984 to 1988, and at Brighton from 1989 to 1999.

He also spent 23 years at Morphett Vale parish (2000 to 2023), before his existing role at Our Lady Queen of Peace at the Albert Park/Pennington parish.

“After so many years, you work with generations of parishioners,” Fr Roman said. “When a couple asks to be married, I often remember them from when they were at primary school.”

Now, at 75 years of age, Fr Roman has positively impacted many lives across the globe.

“I once said to the kids, ‘you can stop calling me Father and start calling me Grandfather,” he laughs.

“I obviously love Mass and the congregations, but being of a grandfatherly age, I particularly enjoy baptisms.”

His life of service has been deeply fulfilling.

“I would never change my vocation. I love being able to really touch Jesus and be in his service. I presume that every man and woman who chooses to pursue what they love doing has a sense of this, especially if they are doing something for the community. I’ve experienced enormous joy in being able to help people, particularly in a sacramental way.”

Fr Roman’s farewell Mass at St Maximillian Kolbe Church, Ottoway.

As for his 50th jubilee celebrations at Mount Carmel Church Pennington and a week later at St Maximilian Kolbe Church Ottoway, he said the fact that so many parishioners from his past came along meant a lot to him.

“It was confirmation that Jesus has trust in me.”

More People stories

Loading next article