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Turn to Jesus (Article)

God wanted me alive.
Fr. James Mark Shekelton

P. James Mark Shekelton L.C.
Fr. James Mark Shekelton LC.

The Miracle

From a young age, God has had His hand over me and has guided me continually throughout the years. Reflecting on my life I realize that there have been no drastic conversions or strange situations but rather that my life has been a continuous response to a call that I had always felt from a young age.

I was born in the city of Sheffield in England in the year 1982. I am the youngest of my family and have two brothers and a sister. As the story goes, when I was three months old I suffered an illness which nobody could explain or diagnose. I was put into intensive care and the doctors did not have much hope that I would recover. My parents, along with my brothers and sister could do nothing except pray. It was precisely during one of the many rosaries that they offered that the hospital called to say that I had suddenly begun to regain normal signs and that it appeared that I was recovering.  Without a doubt it was the first miracle and God´s intervention in my life that allowed me to recover completely and grow normally and healthy. God wanted me alive!

Early Years

I was always very active and liked to be busy. Our house was always a very busy place with constant comings and goings of friends and family.

As a small boy I had a great attraction to the Mass and was always very attentive. This attraction to the Mass converted into a constant theme during many years. There was even a moment when I turned part of the bedroom into a church and frequently played at celebrating the Mass using chocolate biscuits and apple juice. The number of people attending was always imaginary but very high, as this allowed for a greater consumption of chocolate biscuits! “The Imitation of Christ”, by Thomas Kempis was always by my bedside and often I would read phrases from it before going to bed, much to the surprise of my parents.

As I grew, my interest toward the Mass and the church in general continued to grow. Without a doubt this was due to my family and the great faith of my parents. God was always in first place in our house and it was very normal to pray the rosary together.

The Fight begins

The years of secondary school were not exempt of the normal activities and adventures of a teenager. I played a lot of golf, tennis, rugby and football, I liked getting along with girls, and during the weekends I often went biking with
P. James Mark Shekelton L.C.
a group of friends.

I was always keen to make money through selling things, washing cars and cutting grass. There was always something to be done and I was always busy. Even so, looking back I realize how, during these years, God was watching over me and the many experiences I had were to lead me eventually to say ‘Yes’ to him.

During my younger years the attraction to the priesthood was a normal attraction of any child, but as I grew I started to see that God was taking things more seriously. This scared me but I realized that God was asking me to have great faith in Him.

In England, a lot of importance is given to the many Martyrs who have shed their blood for the cause of the Gospel. Amongst them, St Edmund Campion and St Thomas Moore have always inspired me by their fidelity to the faith and the witness they gave of? Christ. Many times I would sit reflecting on what I was to do in life. There were many questions that puzzled me and caused doubts. I wanted to do something great and I wanted to help others but I could never get the idea of the priesthood out of my mind. This idea continued to grow with me and I could not get it out of my head.

Our Parish priest, Mons. William Kilgannon, an Irishman, had a great influence on me. He is an unconquerable character who stops at nothing to attend to the parish and its needs. Many times he was up all night attending the sick and comforting the dying. This always struck me positively and helped me to understand that a priest does not and cannot live for himself but for others.

My family has always had friendship with lots of priests and this also had a positive influence in my own vocation. I saw the priest as a close fatherly figure and was always identified with what I saw. For this reason, and due to the faith of my family, there was always a great love for the church in my house. My father had been an Anglican and converted to the Catholic faith before meeting my mother. Maybe this was another reason why the life of  faith was taken very seriously. 

I had known the Legion through one of my brothers who had left home in 1992 to join the Legion’s seminary in Ireland. The Congregation had no groups or apostolates in England but on occasions when I visited my brother, I experienced great peace and perceived a great love for the Church.

In the year 1999, I attended a summer camp in Alaska. During those weeks, amidst Gods work of Creation and lots of activity such as rafting, hunting, camping and skiing, that I decided the time had arrived to give God an opportunity to work in me. In the summer of this same year I joined the Candidacy Program in the Legionaries Novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut, USA.  When I look back I ask myself “how it was possible at that moment to leave everything? Surely somebody tricked me into staying.” I can say that it was the response to Gods call and, without a doubt, because he grants the special grace we need in the moment we need it. The important thing is to correspond to it. This will always bring peace and happiness.

One of the factors that have helped me to grow in my love for the priesthood has been the years working with young people and families in Mexico. I have learned, and continue to learn that a priest is for all people. To be an instrument of God’s grace is one of the greatest joys that I have experienced. 

Looking back over the years I have also learned that there is no easy path but every path must be walked in the company of Our Lord. God grants His grace for those moments when we have to make decisions, and it is this grace that enables us to continue, even in the midst of hardships and suffering.

I entrust the years that follow into God’s hands, and ask for the prayers of all those who read this short story, so that God will preserve me in his service and through me, reach all those souls in need of his Salvation.

Fr. James Shekelton was born in the City of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England in 1982. He studied his primary education at Mylnhurst Convent School in Sheffield and passed through secondary and preparatory education at All Saints Catholic School of the same city. At the age of 17 he entered the Novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Cheshire, Connecticut USA. In 2002 he obtained a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolurum in Rome. From 2004 to 2011 he worked with youth in both the City of Mexico and the City of Monterrey. In 2009 he began his Bachelors Degree in Theology at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum which he obtained in June 2012. He received diaconate ordination on 30th June 2012, Feast of the First Roman Martyrs.



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