“I think especially later in high school, God and faith was just so real to me, that I would make the point of making it clearer to others,” he said.
“But I certainly was never drawn away from the faith, and never felt any confrontation about the faith.”
Moving on from high school, this humble priest stumbled into an arts and teaching degree, although he wasn’t entirely set on the idea of a teaching career.
“My heart wasn’t really in that,” he said.
“After high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and didn’t know what I was really passionate about.
“I was thinking of what job, what it is I wanted to do as a career.
“There was no clarity because there was something else for me.”
He was, however, passionate about music, the guitar and London.
At the end of 2001, he moved to London “to see where God would lead”.
“I pretty quickly fell into working in soup kitchens, shelters, and even helped set up a shelter in London,” he said.
Within six months of working closely with the poor and marginalised, Fr Dean began thinking more seriously about a religious vocation.
His discernment also profited from his pilgrimage to World Youth Day Toronto in 2002.
“That’s when I started vaguely thinking about it – I started thinking about thinking about it,” he said.
“Things weren’t necessarily confirmed in Toronto, but I do remember vividly hearing Pope John Paul II saying, ‘If you are thinking about religious vocations, do not be afraid’.”
Fr Dean’s reaction was not one of clarity, but an overwhelming knowledge of the “very clear, closeness to the reality of God”.
“So when I went back to London, I started looking into things, speaking to priests,” he said.
His brother knew the Capuchin friars in Australia, and suggested he get in contact with them.
Fr Dean was almost certain he was called to an order with a Franciscan spirituality, having “fallen in love with the idea of Francis” years earlier.
“Even though I looked at other things, it was pretty clear that Franciscan spirituality was the right thing,” he said.
In 2004, two years after realising the call to religious life, Fr Dean entered the postulancy of the Capuchin friars.
The two years of waiting was “a good test” for Fr Dean.
“That time was quite a period of waiting, and when the passion, the enthusiasm, didn’t die, it was a good test,” he said.
“The fact it remained was a nice, reassuring thing.”
Fr Dean made his first vows at the end of 2006, his final vows in 2011, and was ordained a priest in February this year.
The now 36-year-old has had an abundant life as a friar, setting up outreach ministries in Melbourne and Sydney, and now finding ways to meet the needs of the poor in Brisbane.
“We had great formators, great wise older friars who were a great example,” he said.
“I think also, something that was very attractive to me, we are not just studying, but we are living the life pretty much immediately, getting a taste for it.
“You’re still getting an opportunity to work with the poor and serve in different ways, as well as the study.”
The order’s close affinity with St Francis is also special to Fr Dean.
“I remember just when I was starting the novitiate, and saying, how extraordinary it was that only a select few in the history of the Church have received this habit of St Francis, the same he wore in his tradition,” he said.
“It’s quite a moving idea.
“Not everyone gets to, but to think that God is still calling people 800 years later.”
Fr Dean said “certain distractions” in life tended to stop people from pursuing their vocation earlier in life.
“You look back and then you see there were perhaps signs along the way, not necessarily ignored, but probably always there – the attraction to this thing that wasn’t obvious to everyone else,” he said.
For now, as the Capuchins begin to settle into their new residence in Dutton Park and grow their presence in the archdiocese, Fr Dean said listening to Pope Francis’ words on unity was a priority.
“I think perhaps what we can offer is similar to what Pope Francis is saying, bringing people together and a sort of unity,” he said.
“Franciscans generally around the world, Capuchins especially, are friars of the people.
“I can see our role as bringing in the Church especially young people, bringing them together, some sort of unity so that we can all work together in order to together show the love of God, together serve the needs of the world.”
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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