Meet the Friars: Fr Joseph Bailham
‘In the Dominican Order I could see that community living and prayer, whilst at the same time being in the world actively ministering in various ways.’
It was back in 2005 at the time when Pope John Paul II died that I began to seriously consider vocation. It was a peculiar time because it was at that time that I desired to be a more active Catholic that I had been most of my life, but at the same time wanting to be a priest, even though I didn’t fully know what that meant. I had no familiarity with the various religious orders at that point in my life and so actively discerned life as a diocesan priest.
During my first year of university, I visited a monastery for the first time to make a retreat. The experience of communal prayer and liturgy, as well as a life lived in common with others, made a deep impression on me and began to reorientate my discernment towards monastic life. Throughout, the calling to priesthood was always strongest, more so than to the religious life per se.
One aspect of monastic life that I struggled with was the lack of a pastoral life, of ministering actively to the faithful. There was so much that I liked in the monastery and that sat well with me that I thought I would have to sacrifice—something often involved when committing to a particular vocation—that desire for an active pastoral ministry.
In 2010 I attended a vocations festival for young people called ‘Invocation’ at Oscott College. It was there that I first had a proper conversation with a Dominican and where I learned a little about the Dominican vocation. In the Dominican Order I could see that community living and prayer, whilst at the same time being in the world actively ministering in various ways.
The Dominicans were also able to give me a coherent theological vision, pulling together bits of theology that I had studied at university but couldn’t quite fit together. These encounters with the Dominicans made me decide to study further after my undergraduate degree, this time in Oxford, alongside the Dominican friars to get to know them better and discern whether God might be calling me to their way of life.
After my first term in Oxford, it was clear to me that this was the path I had to commit myself to. I entered the Order in September 2013, receiving the habit on 14th September of that year, the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.