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Journey to the Priesthood - A Leap of Faith

Fr James Mealy is a great advert for the priesthood.

He grew up in a pub (the Bear Tavern in Bearwood), was a manager with the coach company National Express, he was a cocktail waiter, a postman and worked in a fruit and veg shop.

He loves sport especially boxing, rugby and football. He is fun loving, outgoing, and sociable. He has a degree in Theology and History, loves Irish history and ever since he was five has always wanted to be a priest.

Fr James was ordained on July 5 2003 at St Gregory the Great, Bearwood, West Midlands by Archbishop Vincent. It was, he says, the greatest day of his life. He reflects on this day, ‘When I lay prostrate on the altar, a symbol or sign of my desire to give my life to God and the church, I just wept, nobody could see me doing this because I was on the floor but I just felt so close to God and knew that I was doing what God wanted me to do. I also had a great sense of the angels and saints praying together for me at this time.’

Fr James is one of five children and grew up in a home where the faith was lived out and deeply valued and cherished. As he says, ‘the faith was the hearbeat of our family.’ This formation clearly has informed his vocation. He remembers aged only five celebrating Mass with his youngest sister Carmel. He says: ‘From the age of six Carmel and I would celebrate Mass if you like, I would be the priest and Carmel would be the nun. It would be Sunday afternoon and we would get some ribena out and wafers you know the ones you use for ice cream. The altar was one of those pull down dressers. Looking back it was a little extra snack on a Sunday afternoon but it meant a lot to us!’ In secondary school he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said without hesitation: ‘My name is James Mealy, I am eleven years of age, I live at the Bear tavern Bearwood, a pub, and when I grow up I want to be a priest.’

He says that it was the good witness of other priests that also had great influence on him and helped him decide that the priesthood might be his vocation too. He entered seminary aged 18 but left after only two years to reflect more deeply on his vocation. This was a fruitful and beneficial time and he returned more hopeful and confident in his conviction that God was calling him to be a priest. Fr James is today very happy and fullfilled in his vocation.

‘I know that I am not worthy to be a priest, but who is, and at the end of the day the church needs men to lay down their lives and go forward for Jesus Christ and for the people of God. I would say that it is the love of the Mass that sustains my vocation. I pray before the Eucharist on a daily basis in the chapel and say my Office. I know that God works through his priests and every day it is a great grace and honour to serve God and his people.’

God is indeed working through his priests as on March 10 Fr James and five of his brother priests are taking another leap of faith and are jumping out of an aeroplane at 13,000 ft to raise funds for the sick, elderly and infirm clergy of the diocese.

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