As you know, our parish is participating in the CALLED BY NAME PROGRAM for vocations. Priests have been asked to tell their vocation story as part of the program. So, after 34 years, I’ll see what I can remember.
When I was five years old, my mother and father took us to England to visit my mother’s family. During that visit we went to a nearby Benedictine monastery to visit a friend of my uncle’s who raised bees on the monastery grounds.
Above the high altar in the Church there still is a striking icon of Christ. It was a very impressive sight for a 5 year old. And that’s where my story begins; in that monastery with that icon.
When I was in the eighth grade, I saw an advertisement in a magazine for a retreat at a Benedictine Monastery in Buffalo, NY and asked my parents if I could go. My father thought we’d better go talk with the parish priest.
I gave Father the advertisement, he crumpled it up and said, if you want to be a priest you need to go to St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia.
In those years, I had a summer job cutting the lawn and cleaning the church. When I was a sophomore in high school, the new parish priest called me into his office and asked me, if I could go into the seminary tomorrow would I go? I explained that I was only a sophomore and I didn’t think I could.
I went home and told my parents what Father had asked. Their response was ‘that’s nice dear,’ go to bed and think about it in the morning. I did have a good prayer life, so I asked God to let me know in the morning what he wanted me to do. I got up and just knew very clearly, yes, I would go into the seminary today if I could.
I excitedly ran down the stairs where my mom was making lunches for us, told her the news. She handed me my lunch and said “have a good day!” I ended up combining my junior and senior years and was accepted into the seminary at the end of my 16th year.
My first night, I shut the door of my room, laid on the bed and thought to myself, I don’t think this is a Benedictine monastery!
That’s when my discernment for the priesthood really began. I have never looked back. I always had confidence in that moment of clarity and I can honestly say I have never had a bad day since. No matter what problems arise or worries, I always go back to that moment and offer everything I have to God like the widow in today’s Gospel. I am not perfect by any means, but I am willing to be perfected and I think that is what counts in the end.
What do I like best about being a priest? The unpredictability of each day – a priest has to offer what happens to God. It is His work not yours.
I love to hear Confessions and helping people prepare for death. Saying Mass is my whole life. There is definitely a void in the day if I don’t get to celebrate the Mass.
I have been in parish work. I spent a number of years in Education. I got a Masters degree room Villanova and a doctoral degree from Immaculata. I once headed the Office for Catechetics in the Archdiocese.
But what I love most is being in a parish; this parish. Our parish is such a warm and welcoming center for those who sincerely seek God, a place of solace and peace for those who have lost Him.
I love being with my family – you are my spiritual family. I am the happiest when I am with you and among you. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything in the world. During the papal visit my job was to take care of the Pope’s entourage. I was talking with the Pope’s Secretary of State. He grabbed me by the arm and said, you know we work for the pope, and that’s important, but the most important place to be is in the parish: that’s where things happen, in the parish. Be a good parish priest for God’s holy People.
I promise you today I will do my best. I have my weaknesses but my first priority is to get you to heaven; and offer you the opportunity to know God better, whether you like it or not! So, that’s it! That’s my story; just an ordinary man from an ordinary family called by God to serve His Holy People in spite of his imperfections.
But you know what? There are boys out there who are the same. They may not be able to hear as well as me, because of all the noise and distractions in the world today, but they’re here among us.
Look around, watch & listen, you will find them. And don’t be afraid to ask! That’s how priests are discovered: in the question.
“To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasures; to be a member of every family, yet belonging to none; to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds; to daily go from men to God to offer Him their homage and petitions; to return from God to men to bring them His pardon and hope; to have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to bless and to be blest forever. O God, what a life, and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!” Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, O.P.