2 February 2023

From Lutheran in Hungary to Anglican in the Mornington Peninsula: The Reverend Andrea Nagy’s journey to ordination   

The Reverend Andrea Nagy is ordained. Picture: Janine Eastgate.

By Maya Pilbrow 

30 November 2022 

The first time she set foot in Australia, the Reverend Andrea Nagy was 20 years old. Accompanied by her husband and their toddler daughter, she had just arrived from an Austrian refugee camp. 

Born in the socialist Hungarian People’s Republic, Ms Nagy, who was ordained on Saturday 26 November, grew up in an academically inclined family with a strong sense of faith who were forced to hide their religious practices for fear of personal and political ostracisation. 

“I learned very early never to tell anybody that we go to church or that we are Christians,” Ms Nagy said. 

Growing up, Ms Nagy’s Lutheran faith was important to her, thanks to the influence of her father and her maternal grandmother. 

Her father had a gift for bringing scripture to life and would imbue the bible studies he led with an intellectual approach to theology and history. 

Ms Nagy’s grandmother showed her a less academic but equally important approach to faith, based on her own experiences in the years after the Second World War as a war widow taking care of two young children and her ageing mother. 

“She wasn’t educated in theology, but she was a woman of faith. Her faith sustained her in extremely difficult times,” Ms Nagy recalls of her grandmother. 

Read more: The international student who relied only on God 

Ms Nagy’s faith was a key part in her decision to leave Hungary as a young woman.  

When she was 17 years old, she took a fateful stand in her high school classroom. After her teacher began to say something negative about Christianity, Ms Nagy said she felt compelled to defend her faith. 

“After 17 years of not saying anything, I just had to stand up and say something,” she said. 

The repercussions of her actions that day would affect her life in many ways. 

Following her outburst in the classroom, her school’s principal denied her a recommendation to go to university. In the Hungarian education system of the late 1970s, this had the effect of essentially blocking her from accessing higher education. 

This was devastating to the academically oriented young Ms Nagy and contributed heavily to her decision to leave Hungary with her husband and young child.  

The family spent a year in a refugee camp in Austria before arriving in Australia. It was during this time that Ms Nagy said she felt closest to God. 

“The presence of God in exile is hugely powerful,” she said. 

The Reverend Andrea Nagy at her ordination ceremony. Picture: supplied.

In Australia, she began attending Lutheran churches, becoming involved in church life as a bible study leader and a Sunday school teacher while working at a bank to help support her family. 

It took losing her job at the bank to prompt her to devote herself more fully to religion. 

“I really had to listen to God’s voice saying that, yes, it is time for you to start studying theology,” she said. 

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Ms Nagy started her theological journey in a church that to this day does not allow the ordination of women. 

Laughing, she recalls her mother asked her why she was even bothering to study theology, given that she could not become a priest in the Lutheran Church of Australia. 

Her first brush with Anglicanism came when she moved to the Mornington Peninsula ten years ago, where Lutheran churches are few and far between. It was there she decided to join a local church community rather than commuting to the nearest Lutheran parish. 

As luck would have it, the first church she visited was St Mark’s Balnarring. 

“I felt like I had come home,” Ms Nagy said. 

Read more: ‘It is Christ who has called you’: Eighteen new priests ordained 

While she felt warmly accepted by the Anglican community, she said she had given up hope on ever becoming ordained and was instead growing her relationship with God through her church community and her work at the Salvation Army, where she was employed as an executive assistant working within women’s ministries. 

This changed in 2013 when she was invited to an Anglican Cursillo weekend and found herself being asked if she had ever considered becoming a priest. 

“For the first time I started to think that maybe God is calling me to a different denomination,” Ms Nagy said. 

In 2016 she was formally admitted to the Anglican Church of Australia but was still unsure of her path towards priesthood. 

In 2019, after losing her job at the Salvation Army, she committed to pursuing ordination. 

Ms Nagy admits her first reaction on being ordained was terror at the full weight of her new responsibilities, but she feels comforted by her belief in the grace of God to support her in her ministry. 

“All I can say is thank God because He led me here. I had to leave Hungary. I had to come here to be what He wanted me to be.” 

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