Thanks to grace, grit and some initial help from Google Translate, 35-year-old St Aloysius College alumnus Jason Rushton is now a priest of the Servants of Jesus and Mary, and after a short trip home will be based in Germany as an assistant parish priest.
In Sydney to spend time with loved ones and to celebrate thanksgiving Masses, including at St Mary’s Cathedral, Fr Jason said his 22 September ordination in Austria where the order’s seminary is located was “just sensational.”
“Everyone was there, it was just incredible, very overwhelming and every detail was beautiful,” he said.
Looking out at another packed congregation at his first thanksgiving Mass the following day, he paid tribute to his loved ones, especially his parents Peter and Louise who had travelled to Europe with other family members for the occasion.
He also spoke fondly of his great-uncle Sydney priest Fr Kevin O’Grady, who died in June 2022 after more than 60 years in ministry, and who he was certain was spiritually present for the occasion.
“He always supported my vocation without writing a blank cheque for it,” Fr Jason told them.
It took all his strength to follow God’s call to minister in a foreign land, but that “despite everything, it remained my decision,” he added.
“My parents, siblings and other relatives, on the other hand, lost me involuntarily.”
Fr Jason grew up in Concord West and later Lindfield where his faith-filled family made Holy Family Parish their second home.
But even with his great-uncle as a big positive influence in his life, priesthood was the furthest thing from his mind when he finished school.
“As a kid I was probably a bit more religious, but as a teenager was distracted by other things and I just kind of drifted away from all of that,” he said.
“But I didn’t realise just how much influence my Jesuit education had on me.”
After a gap year in Finland, he embarked on his law degree at the University of Technology in Sydney, and after attending an Edmund Rice youth camp in 2007 and Sydney’s World Youth Day in 2008 made God the centre of his life.
“By the time World Youth Day opened I was absolutely convinced that the faith is true and awesome and I just totally wanted to give my whole life to it,” Fr Jason smiled.
It took time and lots of discernment including with the support of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter community at Sydney’s Maternal Heart of Mary parish before he found his home with the Servants of Jesus and Mary, a relatively new order in the Jesuit tradition.
“I jumped on the internet to see if I could find it and it was all in German. I translated it with Google Translate and my first impression was that it was as if I’d written my own dream religious order,” he said.
Established by the Holy See in 1994, the Servants of Jesus and Mary is formed by Ignatian spirituality and grew out of the Catholic scout movement in Germany.
It focuses on pastoral care of scout groups and youth ministry along with parish work and other apostolates.
Mass is celebrated in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass, so on top of his seminary studies Fr Jason acquired both Latin and fluent German.
From entering in March 2014 as a candidate Fr Jason loved every bit of the last decade and says he owes his vocation to God, Our Lady and to the intercession of St Pope John Paul II.
For young Catholics wondering if they are being called to the adventure of a lifetime as a priest or religious, he says it’s important to pay attention to what makes you happy.
“Not in a superficial way but what makes you profoundly happy? What do you really want?” he said.
“That’s a big Ignatian thing as well. St Ignatius is big on desire. We should ask what does God want for me? But you should also know that what God wants is that you’re really happy.
“The glory of God is man fully alive—and if you look for what brings you joy that’s the way to find your vocation.”