by JULIE SOUTH
Fr Danny Fraser-Jones might not be a betting man, but on August 22 he turned up a trifecta.
He celebrated his 39th birthday. He celebrated 39 years as a baptised Christian (he was baptised on his day of
birth). And he was ordained priest — at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton.
Fr Danny Fraser-Jones has two brothers and a sister and was brought up on a farm in Te Aroha.
Before the seminary he worked in a holiday park in Mt Maunganui for about nine years. At the holiday park he held a
senior position and said that going from a role of responsibility to being answerable took some getting used to.
“Going from being autonomous to accountable is very humbling,” he said “I became a very small fish in a large pond.”
Accepting God’s will to become a priest did not happen overnight.
Priesthood wasn’t a decision he fought, but he certainly did not find it easy. Although it took him years to finally make the decision to enter the seminary, Fr Fraser-Jones said he never asked God to take the desire he’d placed in his heart away from him.
During that time he called on the support and guidance of his family and then parish priest, Fr Michael Gielen. He discovered Fr Gielen was not afraid to cajole, support or prompt in the ways of the Lord. Nor was Fr Gielen above what Fr Fraser-Jones describes as putting holy pressure on him. At one point he told then Mr Fraser-Jones that if he was to enter the seminary, he needed to make the decision there and then: to enter or not to enter.
When the time came, Mr Fraser-Jones announced his decision to Fr Gielen via text message. The text read: “Yes. Matthew 5:37” (let your no be no and let your yes be yes). Fr Gielen understood immediately Danny Fraser-Jones’s decision to enter the seminary from such a cryptic message.
Fr Fraser-Jones said the agony (for him) in making the initial decision to enter the seminary was stronger than the decision he felt when it came time to enter the diaconate. Asking Bishop Denis Browne to ordain him as a transitional deacon turned out to be much easier than actually entering the seminary in the first place. That ordination took place on October 19, 2014.
Being called to priestly vocation is not something Fr Fraser-Jones takes lightly. He considers he is incredibly
privileged. He is a man in love with Jesus Christ, and it radiates from him.
“Where else can you spend years focusing on someone you love so much?” he asks.
The expectation of a society that puts priests on pedestals is something the seminary is diligent in addressing. In Fr Fraser-Jones’ opinion most priests are introverts who don’t want to be put on pedestals.
He is conscious that priests are never more loved than as seminarians. “We’ve yet to make a hard and/or unpopular decision,” he said. He is conscious a time will come when he has to make a decision that may not be popular.
“That is part and parcel of life. Just like any position: There are good and bad times,” he said.
Fr Fraser-Jones believes that the strong relationship he has with Jesus will help him through any tough times
ahead. He also believes this is a conundrum.
All seminarians are striving towards having a deeper relationship with Christ, but the depth of that relationship
is only tested during the tough times.
He grew up in a faithful Catholic family where all sorts of things were discussed around the dinner table, including God.
Fr Fraser-Jones’ parents’ faith is what he describes as dynamic; a faith he has enjoyed watching grow stronger over
the years. For this he considers himself blessed to have had such strong faithful role models to witness.
“The strength of our families is reflected in the strength of our vocations,” he said, referring to the faithful upbringing of his seminarian brothers.
Fr Fraser-Jones enjoyed the intellectual study of God while at the seminary.
For him, human intellect is one of God’s great gifts. He gave his absolute best when studying theology so that he can learn what the Church is trying to tell him (and anyone willing to listen) about God and about the Church itself.
Although not finding theological study easy — “if it were easy everyone would be doing it, right?” — it was something he enjoyed very much.
Studying with laity was an added dimension he particularly enjoyed. In his opinion, formation studies at the seminary are taught by some of the best teachers New Zealand has to offer.
For people contemplating religious or clerical life, Fr Fraser-Jones believes the first requirement is to be brutally and totally honest with yourself. He said it was in his own quiet moments of brutal honesty that he heard God’s call.