Today (May 21), Bishop Bergie ordained four young men to the priesthood at St. Alfred’s Parish. They will serve God and the people of our diocese well. They will also inject some youthful vitality into our aging local presbyterate.
I have known Ronald, Trevor, Steven and Gregory since I became Director of Vocations of the Diocese over four years ago. They are good human beings (which is the most important quality of any Priest). They seem to like each other and get along well together. This will become important as time passes when the number of priests in active ministry declines and they must rely more upon one another. Each has his own personality, skill set and interests which will provide the diocese with the talent necessary to tackle different assignments. I look forward to working with them.
As I watched the ordination Mass I couldn’t help but recall the path a vocation often takes. It usually begins with a vague attraction to living out one’s faith by serving the Church. The idea of Priesthood pops into one’s mind but is easily dismissed. God couldn’t be calling me to be a Priest. I want to be successful in life with a good job, nice home and maybe a wife and kids. I don’t want to spend five more years in school. I am not holy enough. What if I enter the seminary and they ask me to leave? Although the doubts pile up, the vague attraction doesn’t go away.
At some point, the idea of becoming a Priest is mentioned to someone: a parent, trusted friend or Priest. The reaction might be negative. What makes you think they would want you? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life praying and giving up sex? The response might be non-committal. Well it’s your decision. Whatever you want to do with your life is fine by me. The reaction could be positive but with a hint of coercion. I always wanted to have a Priest as a son. The Church desperately needs more Priests. Or it could be supportive. You might have what it takes. Why don’t you explore the idea more throughly?
As the attraction persists, someone who might be able to provide credible information and guidance (like a Director of Vocations or Bishop) is approached. Questions are answered. Options are explored. Expectations and requirements are explained. A decision about pursuing the call to priesthood is made. If it is positive, the process of enrolling in a seminary is begun and preparations are made.
In the seminary, the hard work of discerning a vocation really starts. Can I resist the temptation to stay in bed and go down to Morning Prayer every day? Am I able to share my daily struggles with my spiritual director? Can I obey the rules of the Seminary and the Rector? The equally hard work of formation also begins. Am I willing to undertake the study of Theology seriously? Can I accept the mistakes I made during my pastoral experiences? Am I willing to devote serious time to prayer? With the help of the seminary faculty, classmates and others, the decision about priesthood becomes a little clearer. The best result is agreement between the seminary and seminarian about the choice, whether positive or negative.
In the final stage, two simple questions must be asked: “Am I called to be a Priest?” and “Will I accept the call?”. If the answer to both questions is yes, preparations for ordination are made.
Those in ordained ministry or undergoing formation for it know each vocation journey is unique. There are many twists and turns, setbacks and disappointments, doubts and disillusionments. Yet, the same is true about life after ordination. While the seminary taught me many things about the priesthood, my first pastoral assignment taught be more. However, if they are part of God’s plan, the attraction never dies and the idea becomes reality. Ronald, Trevor, Steven and Gregory were ordained today and so one part of their journey ends. Yet, tomorrow it will continue in a new direction. I am certain they will do great things. I will try to help them reach their potential. Welcome guys.