Mark Croaker is a priest who shears.
This year he celebrated 25 years of priesthood but still carries his shears in the back of his car as he drives around rural NSW delivering church services.
"I still sometimes crutch a few for a friend but only on the condition the young ones drag them out," he said.
"Although my main church is in Canberra - Holy Spirit Amaroo - I go fairly wide in my work because of my rural back ground.
"Someone asked me 'How do you end up in all those little places?' I told them 'They're my cocky sheds!'"
According to Father Croaker there are many reasons he loves his job. Connecting with migrant families is especially fulfilling.
"The diversity, the different cultures, the invitation to share in celebrations. It's humbling the way they welcome you," he said.
"Listening to people's stories and the hardships they have lived through before making their way to Australia is most inspiring and reminds me why Australia is seen as 'the lucky country'."
Father Mark grew up on a sheep farm near Taralga.
His mother's parents were strong Irish Catholics and so praying and singing was a natural part of family life. He also experienced first-hand the highs and lows of farm life.
"The land was in my blood from a little fellow," he said.
"I went everywhere with Dad from the time I was a grasshopper.
"Some things became innate; opening gates, where to stand when sheep are being moved in yards, sweeping the floor in the shearing shed.
"I was a good rouseabout but there's more slavery in it than shearing when you are in a big shed. I think I was more an entertainer than a shearer!"
His father bought the family farm, Brooklands for $105 in 1970. His father beat the runner up by 50 cents for a thousand acres of prime land.
"It would be worth millions now but by 1972 there was a drought and prices had plummeted. Dad was sick with worry and was placed into hospital," Father Mark said.
Serving church communities in rural towns remain part of Father Mark's inspiration. The reality of drought and floods, bushfires and bankruptcy are never far away.
"I'm not afraid to say I been bitten by 'the black dog' more than once," Father Mark said acknowledging the mental health challenges Australia faces.
But he finds deep and enduring fulfillment in his profession.
"I always found my energies were most satisfied helping others," he said.
As a young adult Father Mark has great childhood memories socialising with his close-knit family and friends around the Crookwell and Taralga district.
"I loved working in the sheds at home, I loved playing footy each weekend and B&S Balls. But still I was not fulfilled," he said.
He recalled being challenged to consider becoming a priest by the chaplain at St Patricks high school in Goulburn.
"I asked, 'How will I know?' He said, 'You'll know.' I was haunted at times after he said that. But, the jigsaw of life comes together in little pieces at a time," Father Mark said.
When he finally made the decision to become a priest Mark Croaker avoided telling some people until the very last minute.
"Many people were surprised when I left to begin my training at St Paul's Kensington," he said.
"But my cousin Ted was thought it was a good idea. Things were tough enough on the land. He said, 'Well, it's one of the few jobs still paying today.'"
When Mark arrived at the seminary he confessed to his spiritual director, "I don't know how I got here. I'm not very holy."
The director replied, "You boys from the bush, you're more in touch with creation and everything that goes with it. You see, births and deaths of animals, you live by the seasons as they come and go, not to mention such things as droughts, floods and fires."
Having now been a priest for 25 years, Father Mark agrees that a farm upbringing was a powerfully good influence.
"This is where my inspiration began," he said.
"I have never forgotten where I come from. A humble village, with humble people with a humble upbringing.
"I am thankful for the foundation it gave me in building my priesthood. I have never shied away from being a voice for the underdog and for that reason I will always ruffle a few feathers of those higher up."
Father Mark now ministers to a different kind of flock to those on his family's farm. He is responsive to the changing seasons of his church communities.
"I have the experience of meeting whatever the moment brings. Suicides are never easy, murders, infant funerals, accidents. It's draining because you know people are seeking hope amidst their pain," he said.
Father Mark sees hope for modern society and says that when we have a crisis people are at their best.
"The floods at present see people respond with great spirit. The fires likewise saw great fund raising and people offering their skills freely. We should never underestimate volunteers, in whatever organisation, who work to lighten the load of people in greater need than themselves," Father Mark said.
The towns he serves weren't burnt in the fires of 2020/21 but they did have an influx of families who came from the affected areas.
"Knowing we couldn't help everyone we concentrated on the district of Cobargo because one of our parish members had her family there," he said.
"We raised $20,000. Because the tyre service was destroyed people had to travel to Bega or Narooma to get tyres fixed. Farmers needed repairs urgently and we thought it was a practical way of helping the community."
Father Mark also has a gentle suggestion for country towns dealing with an influx of 'tree-changers'.
"People are moving out of the city to the country areas," he said.
"Apart from financial reason they're moving because they sense the opportunity to belong," he said.
"They should be met where they are at. Be tolerant and welcoming with their gifts and ideas. It will build a better community in the long run. You can't stop progress!"
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.