Deacon Jack Elkazzi didn’t have a conventional road to the priesthood. In fact, at one point in time, his life was headed in the opposite direction. He credits a persistent friend, World Youth Day 2008 and the kindness of his local parish priest as key moments in his faith journey with another major milestone taking place this week: his ordination as a priest.
On Thursday, Deacon Jack, alongside Deacon Adam Carlow and Deacon Matthew Dimian, will be ordained to the presbyterate by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, in front of family and friends.
Speaking to Catholic Outlook ahead of his ordination, Deacon Jack is glad he is being ordained alongside two of his brothers.
“I won’t be the centre of attention,” he joked.
“The formators are so generous to allow me to be ordained with Matthew and Adam, we can all enjoy the celebration together.
“I feel my ordination will be like receiving a beautiful gift and being caught in that moment.
“When the Bishop lays his hands on me, followed by the priests, I’ll be caught in a moment of such gratitude and awe at that great gift that has been bestowed upon me. I’ll be absorbing the grace that God is pouring into my soul.”
Growing up in Sydney’s southwest, Deacon Jack grew up in a normal Catholic household, would go to Mass on Sunday and was taught to love Jesus and Mary and be good.
Leaving school in Year 10, Deacon Jack completed an apprenticeship as a mechanic and worked a variety of odd jobs whilst living what he described as a “misguided” youth.
“I had the love of the faith, but I wasn’t practising my faith. I always loved Jesus and Mary, I knew that, but I left that to the side and followed other influences,” he said.
In 2008, when World Youth Day was in Sydney, Deacon Jack was persistently encouraged by a good friend to attend the celebrations. At World Youth Day, he had his first experience of the universal Church, and felt an inner peace that had been escaping him.
“After World Youth Day, I found myself praying more and going to Church at all different hours.
“One late night at my local church, St Michael’s [The Archangel] in Belfield, the parish priest Fr Slattery walked past me and put his hand on my shoulder and asked, ‘Jack, are you ok?’ I said, ‘yes, Father, I am,’ but I wasn’t. Him putting his hand on my shoulder and checking to see how I was feeling was a moment where I felt the Holy Spirit still working in me.
“From there, I developed a strong devotion to Our Mother. I started praying the rosary, started talking to her and reading about her. I felt comfort and safety from her, and that helped me grow in my faith and change my ways. I didn’t know my life would turn around, but she knew exactly where she was taking me.
“My faith saved me and I attribute that to Our Blessed Mother.
“Growing up in life, you experience many forms of relationships. Knowing that feeling of loving somebody and wanting to share your life with that one person and then it happens again when you’re in the faith, and Christ ceases to become an idea, but a real person in your life, is undeniable.
“As a priest, that’s what’s made me give my life to Him every day for the rest of my life. I feel that love for the person of Christ, He is real for me. I love Him as my Lord, my God and my friend. I can’t imagine living another life without Him.”
Ordained a deacon in July 2022, Deacon Jack has been living his ministry at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill. It was important to Deacon Jack that he honour this community for journeying with him, so he will celebrate his first Thanksgiving Mass at the Saturday vigil, with and for the people.
“Ever since I joined the Holy Spirit Seminary, the clergy and the people of God of this Diocese has been in support of vocation, whether I’ve known the people directly or not. They’ve all contributed to my journey and my growth and maturity in the faith to a degree that I can’t say that it’s only been my blood family who have been there for me.
“This family in the Church has accompanied me for the last nine years. I consider the whole Church in the Diocese as my family.
“At every parish I’ve been to, the people have been encouraging and continuing to pray for me, wishing me well, wishing my family well.
“Every now and then, God gives you an awareness of the beautiful vocation you’ve been called to, and how important it is to be there for the people of God. Feeling the sincere love and support of the people, you reflect on that vocation – you are choosing to give your life for all your brothers and sisters.”
Once ordained, Deacon Jack hopes to be able to use his life experiences to help all of his brothers and sisters in Christ in any way he can.
“By completely devoting my life to Christ in a loving relationship, in not keeping that to myself, but sharing that love to all my brothers and sisters, rather than being a father to one or two, I become a father of many.
“I’m a priest to share the genuine love of the Gospel, where Christ leaves the 99 and chases the one, and giving people a sense of hope and love and knowing that Christ is always there.
“Being there for the people of God has its own challenges, but you need to have that resolve to never turn inwards and becoming a priest only for myself. Remembering that a father isn’t a father from 9 to 5, it’s 24 hours. We should always be there for the people.”
In thanking the people of the Diocese, Deacon Jack said that he wouldn’t be on the cusp of ordination without their support.
“You are all our brothers and sisters. You have prayed with us and journeyed with us along the way, through the good and the bad times. Even if you don’t realise it, your prayers are your accompaniment on our journey.
“We are here today getting ordained because of your great gifts and support. We hope that we may serve you in the future with love and the grace of God.
“I pray that I will do my best and the rest will be up to the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of the people that I meet.”
You are invited to celebrate Deacon Jack Elkazzi’s ordaination to the priesthood alongside Deacon Adam Carlow and Deacon Matthew Dimian by attending in-person at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, on Thursday 2 February at 7.30pm. Wellwishers who are unable to attend in-person can tune in to the livestream, which is live, free and open to all via bit.ly/feb23ordinations.
Jack’s first Mass as a newly ordained priest will be celebrated on Saturday 4 February at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, at the 5pm Vigil.