“I want to love like the Lord loves.”
These words of wisdom from Deacon Tom Green will steer his ministry as he prepares for the next step in his vocational journey.
On Thursday 21 September, Deacon Tom will be ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, in front of hundreds of family, friends and parishioners from across the Diocese and beyond.
“I’m feeling quite settled at the moment,” Deacon Tom tells me just over a week out from his ordination.
“These past few weeks have been a good opportunity for me to focus on the most important thing, which is my relationship with God, the significance of the ordination and realising what this gift of the priesthood is that He has given me.
“I have been filled with gratitude, but I also acknowledge that I am unworthy. But I know that God’s calling me to trust in Him, which is keeping me calm.”
Inspiration of parish patron, parish priest sparked first vocational thoughts
Growing up in the Blue Mountains as the fourth of five children, Tom attended public primary and secondary school and would go to Mass every Sunday with his family at St John Vianney Parish, Doonside.
When Tom was in high school, he got his first inkling of wanting to live a life dedicated to the Church.
“None of my friends in high school were Catholic, and they had many challenging views and full of confidence in their own worldviews. So, I went to find out for myself if what they were saying was true,” he explains.
“One of the first things I did was go to the library at the back of the church and picked up the biography of St John Vianney.
“I was really captured by this man and his love of the Lord, his service of the people and his radical dedication to Christ and His Church. I think that put this idea of the priesthood into my heart.
“Our parish priest, Fr John O’Neill was very zealous for the priesthood and the Catholic faith. His love for the Eucharist was palpable every time he would celebrate Mass.
“I think it was a mixture of things that the Lord had put in my life to lay the foundation for what He wanted me to do.”
‘Had to give it a go’
Throughout his late teens, Tom felt this restlessness in his heart reminding him of his initial pull towards the priesthood.
“My calling really started as an idea that [the priesthood] would be a good use of my life and there was a lot of peace with that thought.
“I remember at around 14 or 15, I spoke to the parish priest about the priesthood and there was an overwhelming sense of joy afterwards. I’d never felt that kind of happiness before.
“Even throughout the years, when I drifted away from the faith, there was this thing in the back of my head that wouldn’t go away.”
Tom went on to live a typical young adult life – he hung out with his mates, played soccer and cricket, dated girls, worked in hospitality and started a nursing degree at university. But he recalls this constant thought or feeling that wouldn’t go away. It was annoying at times, try as he might to ignore it.
“I was dating this girl, and this thought kept coming back up again and again. So, I ended the relationship because I knew that I wasn’t going to find peace unless I gave it [the priesthood] a real go.”
Living faith with others in seminary
Deferring his study and dedicating himself to learning about this new life path, Tom took the leap of faith and entered the Diocese’s Holy Spirit Seminary in 2016.
“It was really important that I had people around me that are like-minded because you can’t live the faith without others, it’s not meant to be like that.
“By virtue of being a seminarian, I have found lasting and wonderful friendships not just in the building, but by going to university and studying with other people and attending celebrations.
“The fraternity and being able to immerse yourself in a life of prayer and growing in your understanding of your faith have been some great joys.
“In the seminary, I was very lucky to have a whole bunch of guys discerning at the same time, we all got along very well and we’re all friends. It’s consoling to know that you can have fun with them but have those moments where you can connect and debrief and talk about your struggles.”
Diaconal ministry confirmed priestly call
Following his ordination to the diaconate in November 2022, Tom has been ministering at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, which, he describes, has confirmed his priestly vocation.
“Serving in the parish has suited me, and once I started doing more ministerial work like preaching and baptisms, it just felt right. It felt that I was meant to be doing what I was doing.
“I remember celebrating my first baptism, I was so filled with joy, and I felt that I was giving birth to these new children of God. Being the person that was enabling this sacrament to happen was a great revelation for me that this is what God’s called me to do and it suits me.
“The people of Blacktown have been the biggest joy of my ministry. It’s been a blessing to be invited into people’s lives and to journey with them.
“I’ve been here [at Blacktown] for 18 months now, and even though I’m not a priest yet, people have so much confidence in speaking to me and wanting to hear advice.
“Being able to have that human connection has been a great joy and a realisation that if you’re living this calling to the priesthood properly, loneliness isn’t going to be much of a factor.”
Called to be a faithful servant
Looking ahead to his priestly ministry, Tom is eager to bring his dreams of celebrating the sacraments into reality.
“I’m looking forward to being able to celebrate Mass as the Eucharist is everything – everything points to there and flows from it.
“I’m looking forward to hearing confessions – being an instrument of God’s mercy and being able to help people unburden themselves of their sins.
“I want to be a faithful servant of the Lord. I want to be an instrument of His goodness and His mercy to people. I want to be zealous for the truth and a witness to that truth. I want to be someone that can be relied upon and somebody that people can lean upon and be heard.”
You are invited to celebrate Deacon Tom Green’s ordaination to the priesthood tonight by attending in-person at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta 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 the St Patrick’s Cathedral YouTube channel.
Tom’s first Mass as a newly ordained priest will be celebrated on Friday 22 September at St Michael’s Church, Mary Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown at 7.30pm.