11 Sep 2018

Meet the Vocations Director, Fr Mark Payton

By Amanda Murthy

In a world where success and happiness is measured with material possessions such as a large house or hoards of money, an increasing number of people are finding it harder and harder to discern what might be the right vocation for them.

It is vital that we take the time to stop and look into ourselves and ask God: What it is that you want from me, what you want me to do?

But in order to do that, we first have to be opened to His guidance, get to know Him and trust in His will.

Those were the words of the Vocations Director Father Mark Payton, who in his conversation with journalist Amanda Murthy from The Record, shared the events which led to his vocation, as well as the life lessons he picked up along the way.

The Perth born-and-bred priest, who currently resides at the St Charles Seminary in Guildford, recalls his journey to priesthood as a “long but necessary” road which began as a simple thought in primary school.

“In my mid-20s, when I was discerning life goals, priesthood was a re-occurring thought, which I tried to push away.

Being raised in a Catholic background, Fr Payton acknowledged the influence his parents had on his faith life.

“Faith definitely played a huge role in our family of seven – My parents would encourage us to say the Rosary daily after dinner. I was also an altar server at our parish in Gosnells, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church.”

Fr Payton admitted to having a tough time when faced with the question of his career path during his high school years.

“I ended up following in my father’s footsteps and took up building, as I admired his work ethic and was familiar with that job environment, having been him around as he worked on houses and various projects.”

Desperate for a change in environment, Fr Mark applied for a one-and-a-half year work-travel visa to England where he worked several casual jobs in the hope of finding his true passion and ambition.

It was a significant trip to Portugal with his parents and sister, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, that Fr Mark affirms “changed his life”.

“Just being in that environment, seeing the faith and devotion of the people, and hearing the history of what transpired there, was a feeling I can’t describe – it strengthened my faith and made me want to know more about God.”

After his visa had ended, Fr Mark returned home to Perth, faced with a decision.

“I felt like I was at a fork in the road at that point in my life – wondering if I should go back to my former job or look into joining the seminary.

“After seven months, I was sure I needed to enter the seminary, even though I wasn’t completely sure about priesthood. With the support of family, my parish priest and fellow friends, I joined the St Charles Seminary and never looked back,” he said.

Since his ordination, Fr Payton has made it his mission to spread the Gospel of Christ and encourage others to respond to Christ’s life changing love.

Fr Payton said in order to help others encounter Christ, the change has to start within us.

“We can take the initiative to be involved in the Church community by attending Mass, reading and reflecting on scriptures, using the sacraments to nourish our faith [in particular the Eucharist and Reconciliation], and getting involved in groups where people can support one another.”

“One of the joys of priesthood is to be able to walk with people and see God’s grace at work in their lives”.

“As a priest, there’s so much variety and different responsibilities, being there for the best of times as well as the hard times.

“Yes, priesthood has its’ challenges and difficult days, like any other vocation, but those challenges are part of the journey,” he added.

For those who wish to discern their vocation to priesthood, marriage, religious life, or single life, Fr Payton encouraged them to have a spiritual director, who can journey with them.

“At the end of the day, God is going to lead us to the place we are most happy, and by following God’s plan for our life, our vocation, which requires trust, we become the best person we can be.

(Originally published in The Record Magazine)