Following a career in broadcast journalism, Nick Adam was ordained as a priest in 2018. This year, he became the vocation director for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. Adam spoke with Sun staff writer Nikki Rowell about his new role, how he plans to approach it and how he deals with misconceptions about priesthood.
When did you begin working with the Catholic Diocese of Jackson?
“I was ordained a priest in May of 2018, and that’s when I began my ministry as a priest at St. Richard in Jackson.”
When did you start as the Vocation Director?
“I started as Vocation Director full time in July 2020.”
You were kind of doing that part time before?
“Yeah, I was working at St. Richard while also promoting vocations to the priesthood.”
Tell me about the process of switching paths from a news anchor to priest. What led to that and what was that transition like?
“After graduating with a degree in broadcast communications from the University of Alabama, I moved to Meridian to work at a television station there at WTOK. After working for several years, I recognized that there was a deeper fulfillment that I was seeking that I could never achieve no matter how much success I had in the world, whether I achieved all the goals I set for myself or the perfect family or the perfect house or whatever. So, that drew me back to church. I had grown up Catholic. I just walked into St. Patrick Church in Meridian one winter day and experienced that fulfillment. I experienced kind of this beautiful expression of God’s love for me.
From that point forward, that one experience led to many other experiences. I started getting more involved in my faith, and I began to think about why am I Catholic and what it is that the church teaches that brings truth to me. Then, once I recognized that this was the path, then I started thinking that’s what priests do. They try to extend God’s love to people in a real way. So, I wanted to pursue that. I did, and I worked for four and a half years as a sports and news anchor. Then, in 2012, I entered the seminary. In 2018, I finished the seminary. That’s how I got to Jackson.”
What is the role of the vocation director? What does that job entail?
“So, basically my job is to recruit young men who might be interested in the priesthood. More than recruit, just accompany them. You know, because we live in a world that is so against, I think, a true affirmation of ‘this is what I believe and this is why I believe it.’” And, to kind of have that affirmation of this is what I want to do is kind of scary. So, I accompany them, but also encourage them. If you’re a Catholic young man, thinking about becoming a priest should be as natural as thinking about being a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or a mechanic or wherever your gifts lie. Because God calls most of us to marriage and family life.
In the gospel of Matthew chapter 19, verse 19, he has this kind of a serious discussion with his followers, and he says whoever desires to not get married for the sake of the kingdom to have a celibate life for the sake of the kingdom, let him choose to do so. If he is called to that, let him do it. What we believe that is is the call to witness to the fact that our greatest relationship is with God. So, as wonderful as married life is, our greatest relationship should always be pointing to God. We believe that priests and nuns are the living, walking, talking signs to us that ‘oh yeah, my life is supposed to be directed to what God wants for me.’ So, my message to young people is that God could be calling you to that. I say this over and over to the young people that I speak with is just to be open to it.”
What does your day-to-day look like in this role?
“So, basically I’m working with the seminarians we currently have. We have six seminarians studying to be priests right now. They are from various parts of the state, so I just look after their well-being and am an advisor to them both spiritually and for whatever they need. Then, I am also promoting vocations. Part of that was a bike ride. So, how in this time of social distancing and trying to be appropriately caring for the health of the general public can I still get out there and be seen and be heard by the people I’m trying to reach?
So, I rode the Natchez Trace from Tupelo to Natchez, which is about 270 miles give or take. I stayed at Catholic parishes in our diocese along the way. It was a good opportunity to make a statement that God is still working during this time when we’re all kind of fearful and watching the numbers go up and all these different things, but God is still working.”
How do you assess who is a good fit for becoming a priest?
“Basically, if you would be an excellent father, you would be an excellent priest, because we want our priests to be well-rounded and joyful and life-giving. Though a priest doesn’t get married and have children of his own, we do believe that he has a spiritual flock, a people that are designated to him in a spiritual sense. They call him father, because they see him as a father.
We take pains to make sure that a young man is in a good place in all different areas of life to undertake this great responsibility. When you are ordained, your community looks at you for guidance. I feel like a gatekeeper, holding myself accountable and holding these young men accountable that they are going to be good shepherds.”
What are your plans for recruiting and how you plan to approach it? You mentioned the bike ride and taking a different approach, so could you speak to that?
“The bike ride, I was hoping, would be kind of a kick off to a reimagining of the way that we promote vocations. So part of that was a social media campaign. So let’s boost our numbers on Instagram and Facebook and to our website and have eyeballs on that and help people see how they can get in touch with me. Most young people don’t want to pick up the phone and make a phone call. They don’t even email. They might just want to direct message me or browse the website and call me when they’re ready. Also, I think small groups are always most effective. I often will just gather a group of young men or young women and just kind of say, ‘Let’s get some people together, very informal.’ And I let them know what my role is, and that they need to take seriously that God could be calling them. I’ve also been taking groups of men and women down to the seminary.”
Is your focus strictly on the area within the Diocese of Jackson or the state as a whole?
“The Jackson Diocese. That’s who I am assigned to. Those are the people I am trying to serve and get more help to, because we have 90 parishes and 70 priests. We desperately need to cultivate the soil and bring forth men and women from our parishes who are going to stay here for the rest of their lives.”
Given the current state of the world, is it difficult to interest people in priesthood now?
“Yeah, there are a lot of challenges of course. I never would have thought as a young Catholic who was bored going to church every single Sunday and felt like it was his parents that were making him go, I would have never thought I would become a priest. I can bring that story to people now and young men and women whose faith is stronger than mine was at that age. It is really amazing to see that. All they want is somebody who is authentically trying to live the faith and hopefully they see that in me.
Are there any misconceptions about priesthood that you get often?
“Certainly stereotypes about Catholics in general and what we believe. Misconceptions. Some people believe that we aren’t Christians, which is obviously false.
With the national and local stories about scandals in the church, that’s damaging. However, I think the biggest thing is your perception of something is going to be what it is until you encounter something that shows you something different and gives you a new perspective. We have the capability to be real with people and explain our position.”