The Bishop of Sandhurst, Shane Mackinlay, St Kilian's Parish Administrator, Fr Junray Rayna, and about a dozen priests from across the Sandhurst Diocese and Melbourne Archdiocese concelebrated with Fr Jackson.
St Kilian's Church was near capacity for the Thanksgiving Mass, which was followed by refreshments in the Parish Hall.
"I am most grateful for the support of all across the weekend and for people's prayers," Fr Jackson said.
"My Thanksgiving Mass was a special moment and it was humbling to lead people in the celebration of the Eucharist.
"I was filled with a sense of awe and wonder."
Fr Jackson was grateful for all who attended the celebration.
"There were many from St Kilian's Parish, St Monica's in Kangaroo Flat, parishes across Bendigo and parishioners from Echuca and Wangaratta where I have worked.
"I was thankful for the presence of my family and friends too, as well as staff and seminarians from Corpus Christi College in Carlton.
"Many were also with me in spirit or online."
The Mass was live-streamed on the St Kilian's Parish Facebook page and is still available for viewing. Fr Jackson preached the homily at the Mass.
Fr Jackson entered the seminary in 2015 and was ordained a priest of Sandhurst on 26 March, 2022.
Thanksgiving Speech by Jackson Saunders
Each of us has a calling and today I give thanks to God for mine: the gift of ordained priesthood.
As we heard in our Second Reading: our gifts differ but we are all part of the one Body in Christ.
My faith journey began through baptism at St Patrick’s in Marong and was nurtured by my loving family. I particularly give thanks to my Mum and Dad, my sister Alyce (my best formator!) and my grandparents for helping me to become the person I am today.
I am grateful for my education at Marong Pre-School, St Monica’s, Kangaroo Flat and Catholic College Bendigo, as well as for my employment post school at the Bendigo Advertiser and in Diocesan Youth Ministry.
Speaking of callings, pardon the pun, I have loved calling sport on Phoenix FM and Fresh FM in Bendigo, as well as Oak FM in Wangaratta. It is interesting how God works and I can see how these experiences have prepared me to become a commentator of the Gospel! Over the years, I have often dashed from a local footy ground in Bendigo to St Mary’s, Golden Square, or St Monica’s, Kangaroo Flat, for Mass. It’ll be a special moment when I am with you as a priest next weekend.
I entered Corpus Christi College on February 15, 2015 to pursue this calling to the priesthood. I give thanks to Bishop Les, who accepted me as a seminarian for this Diocese, as well as for his friendship and support.
About this time, on a lighter note, I remember many people wishing me well for this big move ...
Though many got the word “seminary” a little tongue-twisted, and wished me well in going to the “cemetery!!!”
I have been enriched by the seminary’s formation program led by current Rector, Fr Denis Stanley, and his predecessor, Fr Brendan Lane, as well as all past and present formators and spiritual directors, who have journeyed with me.
Catholic Theological College has been a key part of this journey, so I recognise our Master Fr Kevin Lenehan and his predecessor, Bishop Shane.
I remember with gratitude my time in Rome at the Pontifical North American College under Rector Fr Peter Harman, and my studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
I give thanks to all the parishes I’ve visited during the seminary, especially my extended placements in Wangaratta and Moyhu Parishes under Fr Mike Pullar, St Kilian’s under Fr Junray Rayna and Echuca under Fr Pompeyo Tan and Fr Des Welladsen who, at my last weekend Mass in Echuca, in good humour wished me well for “the next 80 years!”
Today, I have begun a lifelong and eternal commitment as a priest of Jesus Christ. I hope to imitate the example of the Good Shepherd in my ministry and make Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel my own. Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.”
I pray that I may be close to God and his people. I give thanks to the Blessed Trinity, Mary, the mother of God, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and all the saints, in my vocation.
Special thanks must go to Bishop Shane for ordaining me to the priesthood today. You were kind to me as Master at CTC, in my philosophy classes, and I have appreciated your support as my Bishop.
I thank Fr Brian Boyle, who vested me today. Brian, you have journeyed with me through joyful and tough times … Thanks for your friendship and support … The vestments I am wearing are a gift from St Vincent de Paul North East Central Region.
I pay tribute to all who have supported the ordination; Fr Brian, Fr DJ, Paul Taylor, the Cathedral Choir, Corpus Christi College and all mentioned in the ordination booklet. I’m particularly delighted that students from Catherine McAuley College, my old school, were able to welcome you today.
My appreciation also extends to the Chancery, and the Knights of the Southern Cross, as well as Pauline Rooke, Marie Flynn and Margaret Turner, who helped with RSVPs.
Last of all, I give thanks to each of you for joining in this celebration today, either in person or by live-stream. You have travelled from across the Diocese and beyond to be here. The prizes though, go to three of my year mates and my Godfather, Kreso, with his wife, Jo, who have travelled from either Brisbane, Darwin or Adelaide to be here.
We all are called through our Baptism to follow Christ; to do good work in the world, and I look forward to serving you as an ordained priest in what at the seminary has become known as “the mighty Diocese of Sandhurst!”
I invite you to join with me in continuing to pray for vocations to the priesthood, religious life, married and single life.
Finally, I extend a warm welcome to anyone who would like to attend a Mass of Thanksgiving for my ordination tomorrow night at St Kilian’s from 6 p.m., which will also be live-streamed. May God bless you all.
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