By Fran Lavelle
NEW ORLEANS – Father James Martin Nobles, OP formerly known as Adam Nobles was ordained a Dominican priest on June 12 at St. Dominic Catholic Church in New Orleans. He was born in New Orleans and raised in Fernwood, Mississippi. His parents, Dr. Jim and Penny, had five children, Adam being the mold breaker.
I will never forget the first day I met Adam. A ruddy cheeked cherub showed up in the sacristy at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Starkville in the fall of 2008. He was one of the many new Catholic freshmen moving to Starkville that fall. Like his contemporaries he was full of energy, had many hopes and dreams, and was anxious about this new chapter of life. But unlike his contemporaries, Adam had been accepted by the Diocese of Jackson to pursue priestly formation with the caveat that his first two years of undergraduate education would be at one of Mississippi’s public universities. Lucky for me, Adam was sent to Mississippi State.
For those of us lucky enough to work in youth and young adult ministry there are times in our ministry when we just know a particular student is going to test our limits. While this does not sound flattering at all Adam will tell you it is true.
The recent high school graduate that I met in 2008 had it all figured out, or at least he thought so. I am not one to let the misgivings of youth get in the way of my call to serve with love. I am grateful Father Kent Bowlds sent Adam to Mississippi State for those first two years of his formation. I witnessed his maturation and his growing understanding of who and whose he is.
Adam was very involved with our campus ministry program. He served on our leadership team, took mission trips, went on retreats and taught CCD.
I remember one day Adam stopped by to see me and told me about how he got in trouble with the DRE for taking his class to the Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast instead of class one Sunday morning. She was concerned that the children in the other grades would feel left out. Instead of feeling defeated he came to me to help devise a plan to allow the other classes the opportunity to attend the pancake breakfast too.
Of all of the gifts Adam shared with his fellow Catholics at Mississippi State his laughter was, and is, his enduring legacy. He is one of those good souls that God blessed with an extra dose of holy laughter when Adam was born. Anyone who knows anything about holy laughter is that we laugh with, and not at, someone else. It is the kind of laughter that leaves one’s sides hurting for hours if not days. We did a lot of laughing and had our share of tears in those two short years.
In 2010 it was time for Adam to leave us and go to St. Joseph Seminary College to complete his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Theological Studies. In 2012, he entered Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Several of our younger priests in the diocese studied with him there. I am certain the stories of shenanigans they can tell would fill a book.
Throughout his formation Adam was diving deeper into who and whose he is. From this place of deep reflection and introspection he discerned that being a diocesan priest was not what God was calling him to. After months of prayer Adam found consolation in the charism of the Dominican Order. In 2014, Adam began the long journey to priesthood as a Dominican friar. No doubt the synthesis of active and contemplative aspects of the order and the richness of community life spoke to Adam.
Over the past nearly thirteen years I have had the privilege to watch a ruddy cheeked cherub with an attitude grow into a compassionate servant leader and preacher. Over the years he has shared milestones with me. With each phase of his formation and education the easy going, fun loving guy I first met was still present, but I also witnessed the emergence of the deeply grounded caring man he is today. I recall his grand ideas of what he thought priesthood was all about. That too has changed. He is someone who now seeks those on the periphery and understands what it means to serve them. Our phone conversations still include robust outbursts of laughter and always end with “I love you.”
That is one thing I know for sure will not change now that he has been ordained a priest. We are all given opportunities to accompany others in this journey. Finding the sacred in the ordinary and not taking oneself too seriously are critical elements in accompaniment for the long haul. My dear Father James Martin Nobles, you know well how to do both. I pray you always will.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)