Fr. Don asked me to write for Heidi Howls this week as this Sunday marks my one year anniversary as a priest. The seminary, I believe, prepared me well, or at least, as much as the seminary is able. It has become apparent to me during my first year as a Priest that there are things that the seminary just can’t prepare one for—one of those things, of course, is the seminary failing to teach me how to live with a dog that sheds more than a….well, anything I have ever seen.
There is no way the seminary can prepare a man for everything he is going to experience in his first year as a priest. Ministering in tragic situations; burying children; ministering to countless heartaches….no shot. But that’s okay. It doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to because of what happened one year ago this weekend. After Bishop Conlon laid his hand on my head, he said the words of priestly consecration. He called forth the Holy Spirit and I was changed. I was now tapped into a new power that would always be present when I called upon it. The seminary can’t “teach” this: “With the sacramental outpouring of the Holy Spirit who consecrates and sends forth, the priest is configured to the likeness of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, and is sent forth to carry out a pastoral ministry….The sacrament of holy orders confers upon the priest sacramental grace which gives him a share not only in Jesus’ saving “power” and “ministry” but also in his pastoral “love.” At the same time it ensures that the priest can count on all the actual graces he needs, whenever they are necessary and useful for the worthy and perfect exercise of the ministry he has received.”
These words from St. John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis are comforting to say the least. The demands and trials of the priesthood calls one forth to greatness (just as the trials and demands of marriage and the other vocations calls one to greatness). That greatness, we often times do not reach. In the face of those demands and trials we become acutely aware of our failures and weaknesses. In this spot of weakness is where Jesus wants to dive in and go to work. In this spot of weakness is where Jesus wants us to know that we can count on Him. During this first year, I have “counted” on Him and leaned on Him time and time again.
That being said, the joys of my first year as a priest have been so much greater than I could have imagined. As I mentioned in a homily a few weeks ago: I love being a priest! I love being your priest.
Much has been made over the tears I shed when I found out I was assigned to OLM. Aurora?!? Where is that? Diocese of Rockford? Now, I can’t imagine having been sent anywhere else. OLM is now home. Thank you! Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Thank you for your prayers. Most of all, thank you for teaching this guy fresh out of the seminary how to be a priest.