MY VOCATIONS STORY
Fr. Jonathan Cotton:
“When I went to boarding school I was part of the Chaplaincy Team. Being in the Church before and after Services, I became increasingly aware of God’s presence in the Church and in particular Jesus’ presence in the Tabernacle. Quiet moments of prayer, when my friends weren’t looking [!], gradually attracted me to the possibility of being a priest.
I began to notice what priests did and the sort of people they were. They were friendly towards me and I enjoyed their company. When I confided with my friends about my interest in priesthood, they didn’t laugh but said they could see me as a priest. This encouraged me. In my teens, I went on a few Vocations Retreats and found them fun and informative. I was encouraged in my prayer life, scripture reading and reading the novels about the saints.
Through all this time, I kept my options open [social worker, acting, teacher, writer???]. But, at the end of my schooling, the desire to be a priest remained uppermost. So, I approached my Headteacher who contacted my parish priest and an interview with the Bishop was arranged. He decided to send me to St. Joseph’s Seminary at Upholland, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
I enjoyed my training and still meet up with priest friends from those days. At Seminary, priests and students struggled together to try and understand the changes the Second Vatican Council was asking of the Church. And we are still struggling to understand today!
I was ordained in my home parish in Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire and was appointed for eight years at the Cathedral in Nottingham. With the presence of the Bishop, Cathedral Chapter and many official functions year after year, I learnt much about the way a Diocese functions. However, what I enjoyed most was the running of a young people’s drama group called “Torch”.
Since then, I have been involved in a variety of pastoral situations, including running a lay community of young people, called the Nottingham Pilgrims Community, who spent a gap year sharing the Gospel message around schools and parishes. Now, as Assistant Vocations Director, I am based in our Vocations Discernment Centre at Our Lady & St Edward’s Church in Nottingham and for three years combined this with being Chaplain to our Diocesan Residential Youth Centre called The Briars. Now, however, I am concentrating on parish work and promoting Vocations around the Diocese.
I enjoy the variety of pastoral situations each day can bring – baptisms, marriages, supporting the bereaved, engaging with people at the various key moments in life at home, in schools, in hospitals and in the work place. The unpredictability of each day keeps me on my toes. I have a couple of priest support groups that I belong to where I have friendship, practical advice and spiritual sharing. For relaxation I read and enjoy walking, but, in particular I enjoy going either to the cinema or watching Netflix & Prime Video. I often find ideas for homilies and talks from the movies. For my holidays, if I don’t spend time with my two brothers and their families, I tend to hide away in a flat in the countryside where I can switch off, nipping out to visit friends around the country from time to time.
If you know of anyone considering a vocation to the priesthood please encourage them. I found this very helpful when I was discerning my vocation – don’t laugh or put them off. Then, when they feel ready, encourage them to go and talk with a priest or contact the vocation directors who will help them decide what to do next.”