Profile: Fr Callum Young

Newry Cathedral News

Called to the Priesthood – Profile of Father Callum Douglas Young, newly ordained priest serving in Newry Cathedral Parish

An early calling

Father Callum was ordained in Armagh Cathedral on 29th June and celebrated his first Mass in Newry Cathedral on 30th June. He had been inspired on his faith journey from a young age and can recall on the day of his First Holy Communion thinking about the priesthood. He joined the Neocatechumenal Way when he was a teenager which provides a Christian Initiation to the Faith for those who have already been baptised. Communities like this exist in many countries, including Ireland, where people grow in their faith together and learn how to live out their Christian vocation in their daily lives.

As a teenager he went on a youth pilgrimage during which a vocational meeting was held in the Amsterdam Arena. Here he publicly voiced his desire to begin his journey towards priesthood and was invited to join a group of like-minded young men in a discernment group over the next number of years. Fr Callum took a break from the group to further his studies and completed a degree in Theology and Religious Studies at St Mary’s Twickenham.

In the footsteps of those who went before.

Fr Callum had only been to Ireland once before in 2009 to attend the funeral of Fr Brian O’Higgins, his Parish Priest in St Michael’s, East Ham who came from Dundalk.

In 2012, in response to the request of recent Popes for evangelisation in Ireland and throughout the world, Cardinal Brady set up a new missionary seminary for the Archdiocese in Armagh. The Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary was to be located in Dundalk.

On being assigned a seminary in September 2012, Father Callum was surprised to hear that it was in the hometown of his former Parish Priest.

Initially, as there was no purpose-built seminary, the 8 new seminarians shared a house before moving into the old De La Salle Monastery which was established as the permanent home of the Seminary. The new seminarians played their part in the renovation and undertook everything from cutting tiles to the task of setting up house. It fell to Fr Callum to clean and cook. As part of the Seminary formation, each seminarian spends at least two years on a missionary placement.

From the Holy land to preaching the faith in the Arabian Gulf

Initially he was placed in the Holy land with 6 months in Galilee and then 6 months in Jerusalem. It was obvious during the interview that this time had touched Fr Callum greatly. As he walked in the footsteps of Jesus it brought deeper meaning to the scripture and his vocation. He referred to the Holy land as the 5th Gospel and cited the night he stayed in the Church of Holy Sepulchre as a most moving experience as he was in the place where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead.

From the Holy land he was next placed in Dubai and then Bahrain and was faced firstly with a very different culture and way of life, living in an Islamic environment. In Bahrain many of the parishioners were migrant workers from the Philippines or India. The parish church celebrated mass in many languages and every hour there would be another mass starting. Being in an Islamic country, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is adapted to allow workers to attend on their day off which meant they could come for ‘Sunday Mass’ on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. It was normal to have around 30 masses over these 3 days. Father Callum was struck by the injustice experienced by many of the migrant workers in Bahrain who were there on visas and could be easily sacked or placed in prison for minor offences. He visited some of the imprisoned and spoke with people in very challenging situations, feeling clearly that his role was to give a word of hope to those who were suffering.

One day a Deacon, the next a priest

Fr Callum was ordained a Deacon in August 2020 on the Feast of St Augustine. At the end of February 2020 he had been sent on a six-week pastoral placement to Newry. As this coincided with lockdown, he remained in Newry until the end of June. As the parochial house had no staff due to the pandemic he returned to cleaning and cooking and even tried his hand at arranging flowers for the online church services. Many of us were blessed by hearing the beautiful voice of Fr Callum singing during the pandemic and I’m sure you’ll agree that it lifted our spirits. Music was also a huge part of his ordination and first mass at the Cathedral and the hymns chosen were ones we all knew and loved.

Vision for ministry

Father Callum expressed a strong vision for the church as a community and that his role will be, ‘to lead people to Christ’. He recognised that the church has gone through tough times recently but that there is a special place in his ministry for the youth, many of whom have been baptised, and have made their First Holy Communion but have yet to have a profound spiritual encounter with Christ. He stated,

‘I can be there for them, ready to listen and ready to offer encouragement.’ In many ways Ireland needs to prioritise nurturing the faith of its young people.

He believes that ‘Authenticity’ is a central tenet in preaching and that the church should not shy away from strong messages. Young people are seeking authentic messages and ideals.

‘As a church we should not be afraid to spread the Gospel, not a watered down version of it’.

He is passionate in his belief that the Gospel makes us free and that Jesus is the greatest example of a straight talker.

In reference to modern society and a fear of offending others, Fr Callum believes that many people feel that they should keep their religion at home but

‘Faith, Culture and Art need to be publicly expressed’.

Father Callum has three main goals for his Priesthood –

‘to be more Christ-like, to practice what I preach, and to guide others to a merciful and loving God’.

He stated that every mass he would say would have the Good News at the centre and asked for people to keep him in their prayers as he would them.