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Missing piece of puzzle falls into place

Vocations

About to turn 40 and enter the seminary, James Thomson says he finally knows where he fits in the jigsaw puzzle.

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Called to his vocation later in life, James will this month begin studies at Pope St John XXIII National Seminary in Boston fulfilling a commitment to “give back” to the Church that he has loved since a child growing up in Bournemouth on the south coast of England.

“It is a relief to now know where my jigsaw piece fits in the puzzle. It’s not in there yet, but I can see where it fits, it’s like you’ve turned a corner,” he said.

There were many pieces that had to fall into place before James made his decision to leave his job as a credit analyst and pursue his calling to be a priest.

Born and raised in a loving family where the local parish and Church were central to his life, James started as an altar server at age six and continued to serve for the next 21 years.

“I was very fortunate to have three totally different parish priests in the UK, but strong leaders in their own right.

“I always knew the priesthood was an option and that route was always open to me. But it was just the time of my life, my friends and the outer influences… I had to go out and get a job, have a girlfriend and see if that’s what I wanted.”

He started an accountancy degree at university, picked up a job at Barclay’s Bank and everything was bubbling along nicely. However, life was about to change dramatically as his parents floated the idea of the family moving to start a new life in Australia.

“I was 27 and I remember we sat around the table and Dad, who had just retired at 54, said we’ve got this option to move to Australia – but we have to go as a family, otherwise we won’t go at all.”

None of them had ever been to Australia before but James’ aunty lived in Adelaide and the lure of great weather, open spaces and beautiful beaches was too strong.  They sold the family home, packed their belongings in a shipping container and embarked on their new adventure, making a home in Hallett Cove.

That was 12 years ago and the family is now firmly entrenched at St Martin de Porres Church.

Upon arriving in Adelaide, James began studying at university and completed his accountancy degree, finding employment with Rural Bank, part of Bendigo Bank.

He liked his job, but admitted the highlight of his working day was being able to attend Mass at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral during his lunch break.

“A turning point for me was when the Cathedral closed for nine months due to renovations and it broke my routine. I got a bit annoyed and thought what am I going to do with my lunch breaks?

“But life goes on, the months rolled by and then there was the countdown to the Cathedral reopening. It got to nine months and I thought okay, I can go today. During the walk there – and I’m not usually that emotional – my hands were shaking, tears were flooding and it was sheer joy. And then I’m thinking, James why are you like this?

“And it came down to love – love for the Church and it feels like you are coming home…and I just felt like skipping all of the way there.”

With that experience having a profound impact, James starting attending retreats run in Sydney by the Benedictine Monks.

A gentle push by Monsignor Rob Egar to attend a vocations meeting, participating in monthly meetings with other men discerning at the same time, the constant support of Vocations director Fr Peter Zwaans and a pilgrimage to Rome all helped James come to the conclusion that he was being called to serve.

“I was seriously considering monastic life with the Benedictine community but I reflected on the gifts God has given me and the upbringing I’ve had and the priests that have gone before me and what I owe them… and you are at a stage where you want to give back and the best way for me is with the community.”

While looking forward to learning from “passionate and like-minded people” in Boston, James said his biggest sacrifice over the next four years will be leaving his family and the back-to-back winters, in the scheme of things, a small price to pay.

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