Ordained in the familiar surrounds of St David’s Church in the Tea Tree Gully parish on Friday July 22, Fr Nash will return home for his first appointment as assistant parish priest to St David’s and St Pius X Church at Dernancourt, both under the care of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
“I’m very excited to be coming back home and this appointment will enable me to continue to learn and grow in the sacramental, pastoral and parochial ministry of a priest,” Fr Nash said.
“I hope later that I may be able to move into more missionary work, perhaps developing new ministries that don’t exist yet in the Church, enabling the Church to reach out to those who are most excluded and abandoned by both the Church and our society.”
Fr Nash, 31, was ordained by Bishop Mark Edwards OMI, Bishop of Wagga Wagga, in an evening service that was attended by family and friends, including parents Brian and Doris and brother Aaron, Oblate priests and religious from around Australia and priests from the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
The following morning he celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving in St David’s.
Reflecting on the weekend of celebrations, Fr Nash said there had been a “whirlwind of emotion”, including “nervousness and anxiety, and disappointment” as many people were unable to attend due to COVID.
“But once the ceremony started I was overwhelmed by the love and peace of the gathered people of God who have carried me thus far and I know will continue to carry me in my ministry,” he said.
“At my first Mass, the Mass of Thanksgiving, I felt an abundance of gratitude for what God has done for me and for every person who has supported me along the way.”
Raised in the Tea Tree Gully area, Fr Nash said the Church had always been an important part of his life.
“Growing up there I don’t think we ever really knew the difference between a religious and diocesan priest, let alone about the Oblates,” he said.
“But the priests we had were always so friendly and engaging. They came to our home to share dinner with us. They led us through all our sacraments. They always preached well and our family always had a deep respect for them.”
After finishing high school Fr Nash studied law and international studies, with his goal to “help those who were less fortunate than myself”. He spent time with the United Nations in South Africa working with refugees and this, coupled with a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, led him to consider a different pathway.
“It has been nine years since I received the calling to religious life and priesthood and seven years since I moved to Melbourne to start my formation,” he said.
“It has been a long process, but one that has been very worthwhile and I am very thankful to my formators, both here and in the USA, who provided me with some of the best spiritual, personal, intellectual and pastoral formation.
“I am also grateful to the wider Church, to those lay people who have been in communities where I have served that have also formed me.”
Having endured 265 days in lockdown in Melbourne over the past two years, Fr Nash said the pandemic had also disrupted his journey to ordination with his perpetual vows postponed three times due to border closures.
However, there were some positives as the lockdowns brought a greater focus on technology today and the changing ways of engaging with parishioners. In an interview with The Southern Cross last year, Fr Nash spoke of how he and fellow Oblate seminarians and priests found themselves developing new communication skills as they endeavoured to maintain contact with Melbourne parishioners in lockdown.
“Myself and some of the other priests pretty much ordered a whole bunch of stuff from Amazon to set up our little film studio and started filming a whole lot of communications to send out so that people had some sort of spiritual nourishment during those lockdown times,” he said.
“We set up livestreaming from our seminary chapel so people could watch Mass daily and that made me interested in this kind of work.”
As part of his studies Fr Nash completed a thesis which looked at how to create a ‘digital missiology for the Church to learn how the Church can understand its mission in the digital world’.
“I look at some of my friends and their whole lives are lived through digital means – they shop online, they date online, they communicate online so it really is a massive aspect of our lives today and if we’re not bringing the gospel into that realm I think we are missing a massive opportunity,” Fr Nash said.