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Former analyst embraces rank of service


Newly ordained deacon James Thomson experienced a “great sense of peace” as he prepared for the next big step in his journey to becoming a priest.

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Ordained by Archbishop Patrick O’Regan in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on Saturday September 3, Deacon James reflected on the events of the day after returning to Boston, USA, where he will complete his final year of studies.

“You always think in the back of your mind that on such a momentous occasion nerves might get the better of you, but this didn’t happen,” Deacon James told The Southern Cross.

“Instead, I felt a deep sense of calm, which allowed me to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of the day.”

Deacon James said two significant moments had resonated with him on the day.

Prior to the Mass he was humbled to see so many people – including a group of 30 who had travelled from the South East – filing into the Cathedral.

“That they had made the long journey to share this special day with me and witness what was about to happen, it showed they truly care about me,” he said.

“I had the same feeling during the Litany of the Saints, the point in the ordination where we call upon the Church for help and ask the saints throughout history to pray for us.

“A thought came to me while I was laying on the ground. Why would a man who lived 800 years ago in a small town in Assisi care about what’s happening to me at this point in time on the other side of the world in Adelaide?

“And I suppose that’s the beauty of our Church – we are all part of this Mystical Body of Christ, past and present alike. It is only natural for us to care about each other, and to want to share with each other joyful moments such as these.”

Special guests joining Deacon James on the day were his parents, Jasmine and Michael, his two sisters and their husbands and children. Many watched the livestream, including family and friends from the United Kingdom as well as friends, seminarians and faculty from the USA.

In his homily, Archbishop O’Regan said James’ life had been shaped so far by “many instances of word and wisdom”, with the Son and the Spirit “continually at work”.

“Sometimes this has been gracious, other times it may have felt like a bit of a pummelling, but you have been blessed to be nurtured in the rich soil of your family, your work, and more recently in a particular form of formation in Boston and the COVID-induced local area where you have come to work that little bit better,” he said.

Addressing the congregation after his ordination, Deacon James gave thanks to his parents, who had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary two weeks before, and said they were “true witnesses” to their vocation.

He also thanked four parish priests from the UK and Australia who had played a “pivotal role in helping me to find my vocation” – Fr Philip French, Fr John O’Byrne, Canon Patrick Chrystal and Mgr Ian Dempsey.

Deacon James with his parents, sisters and their families.

“My parents brought the Church into my life but it was these priests who brought Christ to me,” he said. “It’s through the service of each of these men that my relationship with Christ has been able to grow and flourish.

“What I have received today through the sacrament is a new rank – the rank of service. A deacon is one who is ordained to serve the community.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes the transforming effect this kind of loving service has on people, something I have received in abundance all through my life.”

A former credit analyst, James, 44, quit his job and headed to the USA four years ago to study alongside other mature-aged seminarians. Like many, his pathway to the priesthood had to change due to COVID.

“I started my seminary life back in 2018 where I planned to be at Pope St John XXIII Seminary for four years after which I’d be ordained,” Deacon James explained.

“However, COVID drastically changed my journey after just two years of study. It came quite abruptly back in March 2020 while I was in Boston and I was quite rightly advised to get home as soon as possible.

“I managed to get the second to last flight out of Dallas back to Australia before all international flights were cancelled.

“I continued my third year of study and formation while living at Archbishop’s House in Adelaide, working remotely via Zoom. And then my fourth year became a pastoral year where I spent this time within parishes in our diocese.”

Over the past 12 months he served at the Brooklyn Park and then Mount Gambier parishes under the direction of Fr Peter Zwaans.

“From teaching and leading prayer services, to raking leaves and fixing roofs on parish property – no day was ever the same and no textbook in seminary covers such topics,” he said.

“I’ve come out of this pastoral year with a solid understanding of parish life and a greater appreciation of our Diocese as a whole. But more importantly, this past year has gifted me so many new friends, friends who I know will support me throughout my ministry for the rest of my life.”


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