02 Aug 2019
Drawn to priesthood by Jesuit mission
The Southern Cross newspaper – August 2019
For Father Kieran Gill, his calling to the priesthood was more like a “subtle wave of grace” than a “St Paul on the road to Damascus” moment.
“There was no blinding light or anything dramatic like that,” the newly ordained Jesuit told The Southern Cross shortly after his six month appointment to the Jesuits’ Norwood parish.
“It was more about being inspired and learning how to pray, growing in prayer…I felt the Lord subtly drawing me in that way.”
Fr Gill first came into contact with the Jesuits in his late teens while volunteering at a community housing project for asylum seekers. Some of the volunteers were students of the Jesuit Theological College and they began inviting Kieran to meals and activities while he was studying arts/law at the University of Victoria.
“I felt really inspired by the Jesuit mission – they introduced me to Jesuit prayer and spirituality and I started going on their retreats for young adults,” said Fr Gill, who was ordained in Richmond, Victoria, on June 15.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Fr Gill reflected on the role of his parents who raised him and his younger brother in the Catholic faith.
He described his parents as “prayerful people” who nurtured his faith through their “fidelity to one another and to me and my brother” and through their “actions and generosity”.
While very supportive, Fr Gill admitted that family and friends were a bit surprised when he first told them he was considering joining the Jesuits as it certainly wasn’t something he had talked about as a child or a teenager.
“It wasn’t on my radar screen,” he said, adding he was more concerned about “getting a good job and having a good life”.
Fr Gill participated in the candidates’ program for a couple of years and joined the Society of Jesus in 2008. He moved from Melbourne to the novitiate in Sydney where he took his first vows in February 2010. He studied philosophy and theology at the Jesuit Theological College in Melbourne and spent time in residence at Newman College while studying secondary education before coming to Adelaide to teach at St Ignatius’ College at Athelstone for two and a half years.
His final years of study were completed at Boston College where the Australian Jesuit Province sends young scholastics for their last three or four years of theology.
“It’s a very well-resourced international centre for studies in theology with Jesuits from all over the world going there as well as young lay people from across the United States,” Fr Gill explained.
“It’s a very engaging and vibrant place to study. I was so blessed to study there with young lay Americans from all over the country, filled with apostolic zeal, as well as lots of young Jesuits from all over the world who were scholastics like myself.”
Fr Gill said a highlight of his time in Boston was his diaconate ordination with 10 other Jesuits by Cardinal O’Malley and he also worked in a “great parish” where the priest and staff gave him plenty to do, particularly preaching and working in the sacramental program.
Concelebrating Mass for the first time at his ordination by Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ last month is also something Fr Gill will always remember.
“When you’re ordained, you are vested and very quickly you go to the altar and you’re praying in the liturgy of the Eucharist,” he said.
“I found that a very powerful experience to be praying the Eucharistic prayer.”
Fr Gill said it had been “great” to come back to Adelaide where one of his first official tasks was to concelebrate Mass for feast of the Sacred Heart at St Ignatius’ College secondary campus.
“To see students who were in Year 7 who are now in Year 12, to see them as young adults is so powerful,” he said.
Similarly, he enjoyed spending his Saturday afternoon watching the Old Ignatian men’s football team play and catching up with some of his former students.
His appointment as an assistant priest to the Norwood parish will conclude at the end of the year and his next position is yet to be assigned.
“I’m a school teacher and teaching is one of our main Jesuit ministries,” he said.
“I’m definitely interested in teaching but also pastoral ministry and spiritual direction – whatever my superiors want to do with me.
“I want to be a faithful and merciful priest, a priest who empowers lay people to respond to the call they’ve received at baptism.”
The 35-year-old St Kilda supporter also stressed the importance of having a balance in life which for him meant following sport, bushwalking, reading and going to the movies.
Picture: Fr Gill blesses a St Ignatius’ College staff member after his Mass of Thanksgiving.