Vision-impaired Jesuit ordained at St Patrick’s

Fr Glyn with Bishop Pat outside the Cathedral.

Wearing twin telescopes on his glasses, and using a white stick to help him find his way, Fr Justin Glyn, SJ, was ordained as a priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland on August 6 by Bishop Patrick Dunn. Fr Glyn’s eyes have been unable to focus since birth, so the former lawyer uses twin telescopes on his glasses to help him.

Fr Justin Glyn, SJ, gives his blessing to Anthony Segedin after the ordination Mass.

Fr Justin Glyn, SJ, gives his blessing to
Anthony Segedin after the ordination Mass.

Born in Namibia, he grew up in South Africa where he experienced discrimination because of his blindness. This was in a land where racial discrimination was already built into law.

This made him sensitive to the needs of people marginalised for whatever reason, and gave him an awareness of the moral choices that lie behind laws.

Fr Glyn felt drawn to law and priesthood when he left school. Advised by a priest to get more experience of the world before embarking on religious life, the young Justin practised law in South Africa.

He also discovered choral music and has sung in choirs most of his life, including at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration.

Fr Glyn had been baptised as an Anglican and grew up with a love of Anglican ritual and the King James Bible. He has an aunt who is an Anglican priest.

After his family moved to Auckland in 1998, he practised as a barrister and worked for law firms in this country and went on to do a doctorate in law, focusing on international law and the rights of refugees.

Writing in 2012, he stated: “I had grown to love the writings of the Jesuit palaeontologist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the poets Robert Southwell and Gerard Manley Hopkins. When I explored the Society of Jesus on the web and visited Jesuit Theological College in 2003, I found myself hooked. I was absorbed by Ignatius [of Loyola]. His spirituality of God in all things and the mix of contemplation in action were intoxicating.”

Fr Glyn was advised not to join the Society of Jesus while his doctorate was in progress. But when this was completed, he joined in 2009, feeling very much at home in the Jesuits’ Australian province.

As a novice, especially in the 30 day silent retreat doing St Ignatius’ spiritual exercises, he came to discover a much more personal and less intellectual relationship with God, while still keeping his strong interests in law and in the needs of the marginalised.

During his Jesuit formation, he did a year of pastoral work with asylum seekers through Jesuit Refugee Services in Sydney.

At his ordination, he recalled his work accompanying asylum seekers and refugees at the Maribyrnong Detention Centre — saying that they have shown him what “living under the shadow of the cross really means”.

The ordination Mass in Auckland was attended by some two dozen Society of Jesus members.

Fr Glyn is a regular writer in the Australian Jesuits’ Eureka Street online magazine devoted to reflecting on Church, justice and social issues.

He is heading for Ottawa in Canada, where he will do a licentiate in canon law at the University of St Paul.

On August 7, Fr Glyn celebrated his first Mass at Our Lady, Star of the Sea church in Howick, where he sang in the choir for ten years. Fr Glyn’s parents still live in Howick.

First Mass 

Preaching at his first Mass at Our Lady, Star of the Sea church in Howick on August 7, Fr Justin Glyn, SJ, told the congregation that his ordination is really “your” ordination.

“All of you are represented in what my priesthood means,” the Jesuit priest said.

“I’m not just the servant, but I’m also the vehicle and manifestation of the light of the community, sharing the joy of the life and the love of Christ.”

During his reflection, Fr Glyn spoke of living a faith for all seasons.

This faith is “one which rejoices in the joys of people around us and shares in their sorrows. It is a faith which lives in communion with God, when the presence of that God is less than obvious”.

It is a faith “in which we walk together and which we hold, guide and strengthen each other as together we live the life of Christ”.

He went on to say: “Priests may take on a particular visible role in sharing the sacraments, but it is our journey, our shared joy in the risen Lord, which all of us are asked to show forth and bring to the lives of those for whom joy may be in short supply.”

Fr Glyn spoke of the “responsibility of those who walk with Christ to be continually sharing his love, as faithful images of that love”.

“At a time when the devastating results of the abuse of that responsibility by clergy are all too well known, I am acutely aware of the particular duty we have as priests to honour that trust in the love that was given.

“On the other hand, though the priest may be particularly visible, even if vision in my particular case may be in short supply, living the shared life is our shared responsibility and it is our community which shines through all our actions.”

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Michael Otto

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