On Saturday 28 November 2015, Justin Glyn SJ will be ordained as a deacon at St Carthage's Church in Melbourne.
Justin was born in Namibia and grew up in South Africa before migrating to New Zealand in his late 20s. He has a doctorate in law, and worked as a corporate lawyer before joining the Society in 2009.
Michael McVeigh spoke to Justin ahead of his ordination.
When did you realise you had a calling to the priesthood?
I felt called to the priesthood from my childhood, but I don't really think I understood what that was really all about for quite a while. I was going to join the priesthood straight away when I left school, but very wisely I was told to hang on until I had some experience.
I practised law, and gradually the feeling returned that I was meant to be somewhere else. I felt strongly drawn to the priesthood again.
I came across the Jesuit spirituality, particularly the understanding of God in all things, and the sense of finding God everywhere. I realised that this was where I was meant to be. As a result, I joined the Society in 2009.
What was it about the Jesuits that drew you to them in particular?
There were a number of factors. I was absorbed by Jesuit poets like Southwell and Manley Hopkins, and I'd read the Jesuit philosopher and theologian Teilhard de Chardin.
At the same time I came to a deeper appreciation of the Jesuit spirituality, which sees religious life as not something divorced from the everyday, but something that's tightly interwoven with it.
Those things drew me really closely towards an understanding of what it might mean to live in relationship with Christ, who's also at the same time moving in the world around me.
As part of your regency, you spent some time with Jesuit Refugee Service. What were some of the things that came out of that experience for you?
I'd been a person whose first instinct was to get out and be doing. I found that in the pastoral world, you don't really get out and do. The key is being with people and living in relationship. It's sitting with people who are hurting, and being present to them.
It was very different to the world I'd been in as a corporate lawyer, or as a legal academic.
Were there any moments or experiences that really resonated with you?
Talking to people who find themselves absolutely at their wits end — what I think of as the Gethsemane experience of being an asylum seeker but not knowing where the next meal's coming from, whether you're going to be sent back. There were a few occasions where I sat with people and what I was hearing was absolute despair. There was a sense of tension, but a tension that was completely beyond them to resolve.
I had a few occasions like that, and those instances of just sitting with people, listening to them share where they were at, were probably some of the most powerful memories of regency.
You've been writing fairly regularly for Eureka Street. Is that something you see as part of your ministry?
Very much so. I don't think ministry is something that happens just up on the altar, or in some area or another. I think ministry is something that happens wherever one is.
Engagement with the world is something that is a real strength of Ignatian Spirituality, but it's also a real challenge because it means that every part of us is called on. God doesn't actually call on little bits of me. He calls me to give what I have. Whether it be presiding at the altar, or whether it be writing, or whether it be singing — all of these things I see as being part of a life I'm called to use.
Ordination will give you a much more active role in liturgy. What is it about liturgy that's important for you, and what do you think makes a good liturgy?
To some extent that active role is something we all share. The Vatican Council talks about the full, conscious and active participation of everybody, so to try and delegate the role of liturgist to the priest is not necessarily a great idea. But it is true that as a deacon or priest I will be called on to lead worship and to help other people engage in it in a deeper way.
A lot of that comes back to the pastoral work. Knowing where people are at, and helping people engage in a liturgy that is meaningful, and in which they can feel free and open, and able to feel the presence of God.
It's not the easiest time to become a priest in the Catholic Church. What are your thoughts on the Church's current struggles?
We tend to think of the Church as being an 'out there' thing — a hierarchy. There certainly is a hierarchical structure. But ultimately we are the Church, and that's all of us — priests and laity.
People who enter into the priesthood and the diaconate do so as representatives of the Church as a whole, and I think that we have forgotten that. The abuse crisis is a dramatic example of where people in authority have betrayed that trust. But at the same time there is a Christian faith community in whom God works, and I think that the call to priesthood is a call to be part of that, and to be open to wherever we're called to go with God.
It's impossible to impose an image on the priesthood. But a lot of it is an attitude of how we come to serve.
How does it feel to be entering into this next stage of your journey?
It's hugely exciting. I'm thrilled to bits. It's the culmination of everything I've been propelled towards and been developing towards over the last 43 years. But I'm also acutely aware that it's a huge trust being reposed, by the Society, by the Church at large, by the people who surround me and who've brought me to this point, and ultimately it's a trust reposed by God. And I think that's something I'm increasingly aware of as I come up to the ordination.
I don't think this is me doing "my" thing, I think it's something where I'm buoyed up and brought along as part of a community. It's something where I know I don't have all the answers. I'm assuming I'm being directed by God, and I'm trying to keep a couple of open ears to see which way I'm being directed, and how that will work out in practice.
Listen to the full interview with Side and his fellow ordinand Justin Glyn SJ, at PrayOnline. Read Province Express's profile of Side here.