New priest has diverse background
NEW ASSOCIATE The Rev. Matthew Simmons stands in front of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, where he serves as associate pastor. Simmons also serves as associate pastor as St. Patrick Catholic Church. Simmons delivered his first homily at St. Joseph's on Father's Day. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Ida Brown / religion editor
June 28, 2003
As the newly appointed associate pastor of St. Patrick and St. Joseph's Catholic churches, the Rev. Matthew Simmons hopes to bring to the community "what God is working on me right now."
Listening to God and his conscience has long been a way of life for the 32-year-old pastor. Although reared a Southern Baptist, Simmons says he believes he was born Catholic and didn't know it.
Born in Magnolia and reared in Progress (southern Pike County), Simmons grew up on a farm "in the middle of nowhere," he said.
Upon completion of a science degree at Belhaven College, a Presbyterian college in Jackson, Simmons taught at St. Joseph Catholic School. Desiring a career change, he entered nursing school and upon graduation began work at Baptist Medical Center.
In 1998, Simmons enrolled in seminary at Notre Dame in New Orleans. His conversion from Baptist to Catholicism evolved from a questioning of his faith.
He decided to start with the Catholic Church.
After a number of years struggling over what he believed, Simmons came to terms with Catholic beliefs.
A new voice
Five years after entering seminary, Simmons finished in May. During his last year, he served as a deacon for a parish in Brookhaven. However, once ordained a priest, he expected to be assigned to a church in Greenville or Meridian.
As associate pastor, he will assist in all aspects at the two churches. Reflecting on his personal goals, as well as those for the churches, Simmons said the two are intertwined.
While not the youngest priest in the Jackson Catholic Diocese, Simmons said he hopes his youthfulness will be an asset to his ministry.
He said he hopes his youthfulness also will be an advantage to reaching the youth of both parishes.
Prior to leaving for vacation, the Rev. Elvin Sunds who serves as pastor at St. Joseph's and St. Patrick advised Simmons to think about what he wanted to do with his ministry.