Matthew was born in St John’s, Newfoundland some 41 years ago. By the time he was attending Memorial University, he had drifted away from the Catholicism of his childhood. He first studied philosophy, with a minor in religious studies which included Buddhism, Paulean theology, and Taoism. A persistent interest of his was in green natural construction, using materials such as straw bales and a natural concrete made of clay, sand, and straw, similar to adobe. About 12 years ago, he took a course in this sort of construction. The course was offered at Our Ecovillage and took place at Shawnigan Lake. That is how he came to British Columbia.
Matthew’s deep interest in social justice led him to an ecojustice camp that the Church held at U Vic and to membership at St. Saviour’s. He was already motivated by the Gospels to seek a life where the love of money does not rule, where self-sufficiency is not the requirement, and where societal relationships are of primary importance. He was exploring conversations about religious vocation with Father Antonio and later with Father Smith at St. Stephen’s. He became friends with Rob Crosby-Shearer and other young people of faith. Matthew worked briefly in construction on Bear Mountain building rock retaining walls, but he eventually left and worked odd jobs. He has done a variety of labouring jobs, and has worked at farmers’ markets and at a brewery. Along with his lively intellectual interests, Matthew has, from his work experience, a wide understanding of the life of an ordinary person.
In 2009, Matthew met and married his wife Jessica Ziakin-Cook. Three weeks later she was brutally stabbed in their home by a drunken intruder and her femoral artery was severed. Thankfully, over time she recovered. Several churches rallied to help them financially. They were given a real sense of community in the midst of an unimaginably horrible experience. Jessica is now parish administrator at St. Barnabas and teaches at Vancouver Island School of Art.
Matthew had talks with James Cowan, our former bishop, still trying to discern his vocation in the Church. In recent years Matthew has been working with the poor in our society. He worked for the Salvation Army with men on parole from prison. He went back to university and got a degree in social work. He is now with Pacifica Housing as a support worker for chronically homeless people in the Streets to Homes program. He speaks of the loneliness and isolation of the poor, even when they obtain housing. The isolation pushes people toward addiction in the desperate search for some sort of community. On September 9, 2019, Matthew will have a postulant formation day, that will assess his readiness for ordination. He intends to be a vocational deacon. Matthew envisions a Church that is much more porous and more involved with public groups and events. Rather than trying to attract people into our space, we need to go out into the world. He is a revolutionary in the best most Christian sense of the word.