Voices of FaithImage: Spreadshirt
July 9, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI has called for a year of prayer for priests which began on June 19, 2009. I take this opportunity to share with you some of the story of how I came to spend my life as a Catholic priest.
In 1963 when I was in high school, a classmate and friend, Kathy, sent a post card to a “priest vocation director” requesting “more information about becoming a priest” - and she filled in my name and phone number without telling me what she had done!
A few weeks later, she asked me if any priest had called to talk to me. I told her no and asked her why. She told me what she had done - and I told her what I thought of what she had done! I wasn’t happy about it and asked her why in the world she would do such a thing. She answered simply and seriously, “Because I think you’d be a good priest…”
Well, at that point in my life I wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer – not a priest. But sure enough, a week or so later a priest called me. I explained what Kathy had done and told him I wasn’t interested. He was kind and said that students often did that to their friends. End of the phone call - but the beginning of my thinking about what Kathy had said to me, “I think you’d be a good priest…”
Well, we can fast-forward here because you already know how this story ends!
I’ve been a priest for 36 years. And I wouldn’t I’d trade those 36 years for any other life. I have a full life, a rich life, a rewarding life. My life is not without loneliness, pain, hurt, disappointment and maybe a few regrets - but it is, after all, the life of a human being, not an angel, so I think in that respect it’s a fairly normal life.
The world, Church and culture in 1963 were very different than today’s. When I first told people I was entering a seminary, just above everyone thought it was a great thing. That might not be the response today. “A seminary? You want to be a priest? A Catholic priest? But don’t you know…? Haven’t you heard…?”
Without a doubt, these are tough times for recruiting men to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
Of course, the greatest reason anyone should consider becoming a priest is simply this: the growing conviction and belief that this is what God wants of you. I believed that 44 years ago when I went to the seminary and I’ve believed that over the 36 years I’ve been a priest.
It ain’t all been perfect! And I have not been perfect. My faults and failings are many more than even those who enjoy logging my errors might imagine. To date, however, my sins have exhausted neither the supply of God’s mercy nor my desire to repent and reform my ways.
Year after year after year I continue to believe that I am what I am and I do what I do because the Lord has drawn me to this work and given me gifts, talents and a spirit for harvesting the vineyard of faith in the hearts and lives of God’s people.
These past seven of my 36 years in ministry have been the most difficult. The tragedy of sexual abuse by priests and the painful decision to close parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston have taken their toll on pastors as well as the people they serve. Although a cloud of mistrust and anger still shadows church life, the work and worship of my parish sustains my congregation and me as we prepare for a future when only a continually declining number of priests will be available to serve the Catholic population. Jesus was correct when he said, “The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.”
The joy of my life as a priest is the privilege of preaching the gospel and gathering the people of my parish to celebrate the sacraments. Word and worship are the food that nourishes us for the demands of charity and the work of justice. To walk and pray with God’s people as they seek to grow in faith through their good times and bad, their joys and sorrows, makes me a man of many families -- and that is a great gift.
Thirty-six happy years which began with a friend’s post card…
Depending on your own faith’s way of doing things, might there be a man or woman you know whom you think would be a good priest, minister or rabbi? Why not let that person know what you think? That’s what Kathy did in 1963 and I’ll always be grateful for her seven simple words, “I think you’d be a good priest.”
And if you would take a moment now and then to pray for those who minister to you, I can assure you that they will be grateful.