How has living a single life brought you closer to Jesus Christ and the Church?
I started Altar serving many years ago, aged 7. Dad was the parish master of ceremonies, so I had a good teacher! I continue to this day.
However, like many a teenager, I went through a phase where I stopped doing things simply because my parents did them. Luckily in Faith terms, this meant nothing more rebellious than going to a later timed Mass, appreciating a more modern style of liturgy, and taking a break from altar serving.
My secondary education was at the Salesian College in Farnborough and this was to be another significant influence on my faith. Being educated by a mixture of priests, religious brothers and lay teachers was almost bound to have an influence. I won no prizes for my academic abilities and no prizes for my sporting prowess . . . but to my great surprise, my contribution to the liturgical life of the school was recognized at the annual prize-giving in1978, when I received a small shield for ‘Services to Liturgy’ along with my rather average A Level certificates.
Then it was off to the world of work, with Barclays Bank, and probably at about the same time back to the world of altar serving. I remember looking up from my seat in the congregation one day and seeing a number of young altar servers floundering around without a clue what to do… and no-one in charge.
In the early 1980’s, I was invited to join a coach party of young adults who were going from the Diocese of Portsmouth to a youth rally in Liverpool for a new organisation called the Catholic Association of Young Adults (CAYA). I went without particular enthusiasm, secretly hoping that I’d get away from the church activities of the week-end event and escape to Goodison Park to watch Everton play in the third round of the FA Cup (They won, of course!). Perhaps not surprisingly, I never made it to Goodison, but I did experience something very special that weekend in terms of my Faith, my friendship with other Catholics, and a new experience of what it meant to belong to the wider church.
The liturgies were joyful and collectively we were enthused to be more involved within our local communities, and more responsive to the needs of the disadvantaged.
With the appointment of a new Parish Priest I was encouraged to get involved with starting a Youth Group. We did many things including trips to Lourdes and attending the Papal Visit in 1982.
What freedom does living the single life allow you that perhaps another vocation would not?
I have the time to give to my parish community. As well as the youth group, I was invited to get involved with my parish to help with finances. Over the following 20 years, I counted collections, paid bills, prepared Diocesan Financial Returns, negotiated loans, made appeals, led the local initiative for the Clergy Retirement Fund, and served on parish committees.
My parish is my spiritual home, and its parishioners and clergy are my spiritual family. Everyone knows that family life is not easy… but it’s the easiest place to be yourself.
My faith story is ongoing. I have been able to give myself to my worshipping community – as a First Holy Communion and Confirmation Catechist, I have had the honour and privilege of taking the Eucharist to the sick and housebound, attended walking holidays with priests and parishioners, witnessed the joy of baptisms and marriages, the sadness of funerals. It’s all about my parish family.
What were your misconceptions about your vocation before ever discerning it?
Probably the biggest misconception about the single life is that it’s lonely. In my experience, it’s anything but lonely. The single life allows many opportunities to develop friendships and relationships that a married person with a family simply wouldn’t have the time for.
What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?
I think we all worry about whether or not we’ve made the right choices in life. . . responded to a call in the right, or wrong way. Briefly, in my mid-late thirties, I considered a vocation to the Priesthood, but fairly quickly realised that a call to serve in one place was a stronger calling for me.
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
One of the joys that the single life brings is the ability to be available to people (strangers, friends, family). For example, in their years of decline, I was available to assist my parents in a way that my four married siblings were not.