There are certain things in life that you realize are gifts that you can only appreciate. They cannot be frozen in time nor is there some sort of formula that can be devised that will replicate these gifts. You can only stand in gratitude to God for what He has given and enjoy it.
One such gift in my life is the great fraternity of priests and seminarians that God has blessed my parish with during these past years. During the Christmas Season, my rectory welcomed at different moments Fr. Daniel Hennessey, Fr. Kwang Lee, seminarians Brian Cullen, Craig Cooley, Tom Lyman, and David Heighington. I think the average age of those living in the rectory during the Christmas Season was around 32. Additionally, I think of Fr. Andreas Davison, Fr. Mark Barr, and Fr. Tamiru Atraga—all of whom lived at St. Mary’s while they were in seminary and Fr. Reed Mungovan who was ordained from here a few years ago. Additionally, during the Christmas Season I was in contact with Tom Gignac who is another seminarian from St. Mary’s and Brother Sebastian White, OP and Brother John Howell O.Carm both of whom were parishioners here and now are in religious life. And, of course, a very joyful part of this fraternity is Fr. Ixon Chateau, the parochial vicar here. As I am writing about the seminarians and priests who call our rectory home or whose vocations were born or nourished in our parish, it is great that I have to keep asking myself, “Did I forget anyone?”
As a pastor, it is a great joy for me to see so many young priests and seminarians gathered in our home. I love the fact that this Christmas season I had to think about how I was going to fit all of our priest and seminarian guests in the rectory. What a great problem that is! I love when I come into the rectory and the parish secretary tells me that some priest guest has arrived unexpectedly. I love to walk into the rectory kitchen and find a couple of seminarians stuffing their faces and talking to one of the high school kids who works at the rectory. I love that the young men and boys of our parish not only know what the definition of a seminarian is, but they actually know real seminarians. They have seen men ordained priests. They have built friendships with these men.
It is so great for the people here to encounter so many young priests and seminarians who are joyful and serious in their vocation. The parishioners must see in these young men a great sign of hope for the future.
At almost every Mass I offer, I pray that God will continue to raise up priestly vocations from our parishes and from the families in our parishes. God has granted a positive response to this petition in the past and I hope that he will continue to do so. Priestly vocations in a parish are a significant indicator of a parish’s spiritual health. I know that priestly vocations are a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. So, I say this partly in jest: If you have ever played a game with me, you know that I am a little bit competitive. Now that God has blessed the Church in Beverly with so many priestly vocations, I want even more.
Certainly, a priestly vocation is a gift given by Christ, so none of us can claim credit for it. But, we can certainly do something to help. I am convinced that those who pray for priestly vocations—especially at Eucharist Adoration—are doing something very powerful. We can encourage young men to think about the priesthood. We can encourage the seminarians that are from our parish, assigned to our parish, or who call our parish home. We can send cards to them at the seminary to thank them and encourage them. (Getting mail in the seminary is awesome!)
Recently, a seminarian told me that after he entered into the seminary, many people said to him, “I always thought you’d be a good priest.” Why didn’t they tell him that before??? If you know somebody who you think would be a good priest, tell him. Maybe he is already thinking about it and just needs a little word of encouragement.
It’s true that all of these vocations are God’s grace and there’s no formula that guarantees similar results. BUT, we can certainly cooperate with God’s grace. I'm very grateful for what God has done and I know that HE is the one who has done it. BUT, that competitive side of me . . . still wants more.