Nicholas Austin SJ
Nick Austin is a Jesuit priest who teaches moral theology. He is also a spiritual director, and serves as a consultor to Fr Provincial. Nick's family were very involved in CLC (Christian Life Communities - an Ignatian organisation based on Ignatian spirituality, community and mission). As a teenager Nick remembers watching TV on a Friday night whilst the CLC meetings where taking place next door. His parents' involvement in CLC also meant that Jesuits would often visit the family, sometimes celebrating house masses. He remembers with fondness Fr Ralph Eastwell SJ, who would sit puffing on his pipe, which earned him the nickname ‘Fr Smokedragon’ among Nick and his siblings. He traces his sense of vocation to the age of nine and it was confirmed by these encounters with CLC and visiting Jesuits.
Nick studied philosophy in both Bristol and Edinburgh before a spell of teaching in Surrey. In 1996 he entered the novitiate and it was his long experiment, working in an AIDS hospice in South Africa, that had a deep impact on him. Later, he spent two years teaching in Guyana, South America: ‘It was a time when I flourished, taking part in the Jesuit Mission, feeling my gifts were being used.’ In Guyana, Nick's sense of the Jesuit vocation was deepened by working alongside Jesuits who had been sent from Britain to the Guyanese mission, working quietly with the poor. It was particularly moving seeing how their lives in this way ‘were poured out for Christ’.
Now Nick senses the importance of using theology for the service of the church and uses his passion for theology and teaching. Ethics is a point where the gospel meets secular culture and engages people in the world. After pursuing a doctorate in Boston, and teaching at Heythrop College, he recently published a book titled ‘Aquinas on virtue’ with Georgetown University Press. His current research area is in moral discernment as understood by St Ignatius and brought to prominence by Pope Francis.