Chapter 21: A Missionary Priest

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"You want to what?" the Monsignor demanded querulously, his face a florid red and his breathing laboured.

"I feel the call Monsignor."

"The call?" the Monsignor fumed. "Father Simmons, you answered 'the call' when you became a priest," the Monsignor replied impatiently.

"No, I feel called by God Monsignor, to become a missionary priest – to the new colony of New South Wales." Father Simmons bowed his head reverently and prayed that the Monsignor would not lose his temper. He looked up and saw the volcanic like eruptions of passions pass in waves across his senior priest's face. Now would be the time to speak up and avert disaster. "Monsignor, I fear I have failed miserably as a priest supporting you here in your work in this parish. I now see that I am not a priest of the kind of my predecessors – priests who had your sure confidence and faith in building this community of ordinary decent folk. I'm afraid that my addition to the parish has not resulted in any significant accretion to the capital works program you so ardently desire for the parish. Have you noticed this Monsignor, in my time here?"

"Well yes, yes," the Monsignor spluttered, his face a slightly lighter shade of puce, "I can't deny some disappointment Sean in your performance as . . . "

"And Monsignor," Father Simmons interrupted, "have you not noticed that I spend far and away, too much of my time with the poorer, destitute and criminal classes of our parish?" Father Simmons looked into the Monsignor's face with humble platitude.

The Monsignor resembled a deflated balloon, his face taking on the paler hue of a man whose conscience had not left him altogether untroubled by his stubborn inaction in that department. "Well, yes Sean. Yes, I had noticed that and I have been meaning to . . ."

"You see Monsignor, through prayer, God's intention has been made clear to me. Why Monsignor, I think God is drawing me to work more closely with the hopeless, the marginalised – and what more hopeless and marginalised section of our brethren can there be Father, than the imprisoned?"

Sean could see his words finding ferment in the Monsignor's mind. "Ah, Sean", the Monsignor replied after a moment, "I can see where you are coming from my son, and it's true, that you have a natural . . . a natural . . . proclivity, shall we say, what with your personal history what, for the downtrodden and yes, the imprisoned, but the Parish of St Martin's needs . . . "

Father Simmons smiled inwardly. He always knew that the success of his application to travel abroad as a missionary would depend on finding the Monsignor another priest. The sweetener was that this was a priest who would suit the Monsignor's wish list on every score.

". . . . that St Martin's needs another priest", Father Simmons finished for him. "Well, this is why I believe God's hand is at work here Monsignor. Just today, I ran into Father Francis from St Jude's across the river. You will recall that Father Francis was assigned the parish because Father Peter was called away for a time. Father Peter has returned and the parish is half the size of ours, with no need for two priests. He was hoping you could put in a good word for him with the archdiocese and perhaps have him here at St. Martin's?"

"Father Francis, Father Francis of St. Jude's . . . . . now where have I heard that name before Sean?" quizzed the Monsignor curiously.

"Father Francis' uncle is the Archbishop of Cambridge Monsignor and his great uncle is the current Earl of Norwich. Could those be the possible connections you are remembering?" queried Father Simmons with fake innocence.

The Monsignor's face alighted like the dawn of the day – a new breeze of hope and joy lightened his features as his mouth spread into the most generous smile Father Sean Simmons believed he had ever seen on the Monsignor's face. "Yes, yes, you know old boy, I think Father Francis will do just nicely here. Not of course dear boy, that we haven't enjoyed you being here, what? But Father Francis! O and you are quite right – a charism for the imprisoned such as I have rarely seen in a fellow priest in all my years, you have. You must definitely go – and with my blessing!"

Charlotte TrueWhere stories live. Discover now