WHAT he described as “text messages from God” was part of Mick Greathead’s discernment to officially enter Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, Banyo, last month.
The 20-year-old, raised a stone’s throw from his new surroundings among 22 other seminarians, said God often prompted a priestly vocation from his mid-teens, but it wasn’t always a shared mindset.
“As a teenager, I’d go to Mass (and) altar serve but found it boring and didn’t really understand it,” Mick said.
“Like most boys, my dream job was to be a SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) trooper, or a commando.
“I didn’t think of being a priest; I desired to get married to a beautiful girl, join the army and have six kids.
“My perception of a priest was this old guy who just said Mass. I didn’t realise the full scope and diversity of the ministry.”
Mick’s perceptions of priesthood have been enlightened in recent years, especially through time living in Brisbane archdiocese’s discernment house of Canali, where formator Fr Morgan Batt was a close comrade.
A religious sister foresaw what Mick perhaps didn’t when, as a 13-year-old, many of his family and members of the Banyo Nundah parish youth group, embarked on a mission trip to Samoa.
“The first day (of the trip), a nun said to me, ‘You’re going to be a priest, maybe a bishop one day’,” Mick recalled.
“(I said) ‘Nah, Sister’ but that was my nickname for the rest of the trip, ‘Bishop Michael’.”
Angela and Jack Greathead had consistently modelled a Christ-centred life for each of their six children, and Mick, having heard God prompting from age 15 but unsure when and how to respond, said he was given a “You would make a good priest card” by a Vocation Brisbane office representative.
It was becoming a theme.
“(I said) ‘Nah, man, not for me’, but I took it anyway,” Mick said.
“(And) that was the initial spark.”
On retreat soon after, Mick said he purposefully realised, “Jesus, I want you to be the centre of my life … (and) moments of curiosity in the priesthood” also were constant.
“(I’d be) reading a scripture passage, surfing the web, (and) imagining myself preaching to the people,” he said.
“It was as if God was sending me these text messages and I would look at them, then push them to the back of my mind.
“They kept coming back.”
In his final year of schooling, Mick’s call to the priesthood was clearer than ever.
He deferred a double degree in Justice and Psychology and, instead, took hold of a prompting to formalise military training with the view of ministry as an army chaplain.
“At 17 (years) I enlisted into the Army Reserves on the feast day of St John Vianney, patron saint of priests,” Mick said of what he described as a “God-coincidence”.
“Basic training” in Kapooka, Wagga Wagga, followed, as did the eventual formal entry into Canali House while he studied and worked part-time.
“I worked, did Army Reserves as a rifleman and studied a Certificate Four in leadership, theology and ministry,” Mick said of that time in 2017.
The year following offered an opportunity to serve as a team leader for NET (National Evangelisation Teams) and Mick headed, with a group of others, to Rockhampton.
Last June, the energetic young man attended his first priestly ordination and of all the roads and promptings he’d travelled and experienced previously, a call from God rang much louder than an SMS.
“(The ordination) was a powerful and moving experience,” Mick said.
“As they (the transitional deacons) lay prostrate on the ground, Jesus was calling me to lay down my life for him as a priest.
“The next night, I attended a Thanksgiving Mass … (and) afterwards, overwhelmed by ev-erything, I walked up the footpath, and paused, took a deep breath and exclaimed, ‘God wants me to be a priest’ and laughed out loud.
“That was the moment where it all came together.
“I wasn’t trying to run away from it, make excuses, ignore or deny it.
“I wasn’t angry, or frustrated, disappointed or worried.
“That feeling of being overwhelmed changed into a sensation of peace, joy, relief; I was happy and ready to say, ‘Lord, I am your servant, let it be done according to Your will’.”
A further stint in Canali last year allowed studies in fitness and well-being, and the opportunity for Mick’s “yes” to God to become the reality it is today.
He encouraged others to take the time needed for discernment.
“You don’t have to go straight to the seminary, you can develop an insight into the life of a priest and can grow in many areas of your life, and faith,” Mick said.
“I realised that I wasn’t crazy or on my own … there are many other guys who are searching and responding to God’s invitation.”
Mick said he “doesn’t have all the answers” although “God does” and was thrilled to be in the seminary with his family home “just around the corner”, taking the liberty of “popping in” for necessary items following the seminary’s Commencement Mass on February 10.
“It’s a blessing to have come from the smooth transition of Canali,” he said when pausing a moment.
“(And) I’m definitely looking forward to all the formation, (to) learning a lot and growing into a better man.
“There’s a lot of wisdom among many different priests and personalities (at the seminary).
“(And) there’s a feeling of it being like a family, like these (seminarians) are my brothers.”
Mick said he would be proud to be called “Father Mick” and even moreso “Padre Mick”, as an army chaplain.
“We’ll see,” he said.
“God has it planned out.”