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"Nothing means more to me or gives me
greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day
and to serve Godís people in the Church. That has been true ever
since the day of
my ordination as a priest. Nothing has ever changed this, not
even becoming Pope."
ó Blessed Pope John Paul II
Fr. Steve Wolf
Associate Pastor, St. Henry Church
As a call, a vocation, being a priest means for me to let God grow me into the person who God created me to be, to become most fully myself. As a priest, I discover my own identity as a beloved one of God by being with people in the sacred moments of their lives. Sacred moments include the celebration of Christ's presence in his Sacraments. Also sacred is the sharing of those joys and frailties, the hurts and the hope that each of us holds deeply in the place where dwells the Lord, in our inmost being. I did not imagine that I would be so happy.
Fr. Dexter Brewer
Pastor, Christ the King Church
Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Nashville
A little more than a year ago two senior high school girls in our town were killed in a gruesome boating accident. Several friends and classmates were present, and they tried unsuccessfully to help the girls. The following evening several of these students came to the Saturday evening Mass. From their faces and their tears, it was clear their worlds had been shattered. The Eucharistic celebration was a powerful moment of grace. In some mysterious way, the readings spoke directly to the pain of the students. And the music comforted them as only music can.
While there is much to be said for the work priests do-the baptisms, weddings, anointings and other sacramental actions-the best part of priesthood for me is being a simple sign in the community that God is with us, especially at those times when the community desperately needs to be reassured of God's presence. To be able to gather the community around the altar of the Lord so that those who need to do so can touch God; to be able to intervene in just one person's life for the good; to preach and realize, at least on one occasion, that the words I am speaking are meant for me too, that it is not my message that I bring-this is the best thing about being a priest, being a simple instrument of God's grace.
Monsignor James Hitchcock
Deceased priest of the Diocese of Nashville
There are times in the life of almost every Catholic when God grants special grace to find Him. The Gospel from Matthew telling us about the call of the workers in the vineyard tells us how to answer his call.
There is both room and work for everyone who responds to the call of Jesus. God wants those who answer his call to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." Is this too hard for us humans? Not if we have God's grace.
What would we do if we did answer this call to serve? We need only to take a quick look around us, our place of work or study, the various means of communication, in order to grasp what he wants to be done. And, the reward for this work? "The harvest is plentiful."
Now is the time to spread the divine seed of the harvest. But the laborers are few. What about you? Have you ever seriously and prayerfully considered a vocation to follow Christ, as a priest? Jesus needs you!
Fr. David Perkin
Vicar General, Diocese of Nashville and Pastor of St. Patrick Church
Vocation discernment is a universal human experience. The critical turning point in my discernment occurred during freshman year of college when I finally admitted that my attraction to diocesan priesthood was serious, in fact serious enough to warrant seeking acceptance as a seminarian by the Nashville Diocese so that my attraction could be examined properly within a seminary formation program. Admitting that my attraction was serious and needed further examination was a real hurdle involving uncertainty and hesitation. But fortunately I realized and accepted that if left unexamined my attraction would forever remain an unanswered question and that I would never be truly content. I am forever grateful for the grace that enabled me to admit my attraction and to act on it.
Fr. Pat Kibby
Pastor, St. Stephen Catholic Community
I've been a priest for over 25 years, which seems impossible to me. There
have been days when I was certain that priesthood was the wrong choice. But
there never have been weeks like that. When I look at my priesthood as one
lump sum I'm confident that I'm in the right place. And given the
opportunity, I'd make the same choice all over again.
I'm not sure which is most correct: either I fit priesthood, or,
priesthood fits me. But I'm glad I was given this gift. What fits so well
for me is the fact that priesthood is so erratic. I mean it takes you
everywhere. One minute you're presiding at a Funeral and the next you're
baptizing a baby. I like that -- it's so human. Which can also, at times,
make life so messy. But it keeps me bumping into God.
And the gamut of people I've come to know in these 25 years is so huge:
The good, the bad and the ugly. Each one impacting my life in some way.
Some leave me questioning, "What planet are you from?" And some leave me
inspired with a glimpse of God's kingdom.
Priesthood gives me a front-row ticket to see, first hand, what God's
people accomplish when they hunker down and do God's will. From my seat I
stand in awe. Not of them, but of God. They're only doing what they're
supposed to do; God is fulfilling his promise. Ain't God good! I thank him
for this gift of priesthood that gives me a threshold to stand in to behold
Fr. John Kirk
Pastor, Church of the Nativity, Spring Hill, TN
My vocation to be a
priest became more conscious around the age of 16-18. When I think
about it, I realize it was rather frightening. I wondered if I could
do all the things I saw priests doing. The Church, the Sacraments,
and our Lord were always important to me. I always liked to serve
Mass, and was interested in people living their faith, and people
who were not. The death of my father at the age of fourteen had a
great impact on me, and my thinking about life. I had a deeper
conversion period, and a deeper awareness and experiences of the
Lord in the high school years. Spiritual realities and experiences
convinced me I didnít want to seek material possessions. The
Scripture ďSeek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given
to youĒ became important to me. I realized that I wouldnít be bale
to be wholeheartedly committed to another way of life. I began to
work toward responding to the Lordís call to be a priest. When I
went to the University of Tennessee, which I considered my first
seminary, I took courses that would be required in the basic
seminary courses, such as the heavy Latin requirement, which I
didnít take in high school. I entered the seminary for the third and
fourth year of college.
The priesthood has
been a wonderful gift for me. I canít possibly imagine any course of
life that would better or more fulfill me. The most important
consideration in any call is that it be the one the Lord calls one
to be. As a priest I can do a variety of different works, and help
and be present to people in many ways that would not be possible for
me in any other way of life. All life demands sacrifice. The
sacrifice of marriage and family provides for being with and for the
family of God in wonderful ways. A priest can serve our Lord and the
Church till the day of death. For me there is no more important work
on the face of the earth greater than the work of Our Lord, His
Church and the Kingdom of God. I am grateful to the Lord for calling
me to the priesthood. Itís the best way for me to grow in union with
the Lord, serve His people, and undergo by the presence and power of
the Holy Spirit the death and resurrection mystery of the Lordís
life in my life!
Fr. Davis Chackaleckel, MSFS
St. Francis De Sales
Pastor of St.
Catherine Church in Columbia, TN
I am completing 25 years as a Missionary priest, in the congregation of Missionaries of St. Francis De sales. Though originated in France, currently the headquarters of our congregation is in Rome. Our missionaries undertake apostolic activities in 23 countries of the world. I am from the southern part of India, a land touched by the sacred feet of St. Thomas, one of the 12 Disciples of Christ. Our Christian heritage is as old as Christ himself. People find hard to believe this story, but true! Historical evidence proves it beyond doubt.
My vocation is a long story! While I was a college student, a missionary priest from Germany came to preach in our college, very vividly narrating the adventurous lives of missionaries. He spoke at length about the shortage of priests to spread the gospel in distant lands. I was so fascinated by his enthusiasm and joy of being a priest. Perhaps that was the day the seed of vocation began to grow within me. I felt strongly that God is calling me to serve him as a priest. It was an irresistible attraction and I gave in very willingly! When I look back my 25 years of priesthood, I feel so happy and contented. Many of my non-Christian friends ask me why I became a priest. I tell them it is an inexplicable joy to be a priest and I would never trade it with anything in the world! There are moments of discouragements, pains, trials, and temptations, as life is not a bed of roses, but I always felt the mighty hands of God supporting me and telling me "Why are you afraid, it is I who called you and I am with you." I have seen Him walking over the troubled waters of my life, telling me, "courage, it is I."
It is a great vocation to be a missionary. I feel that I have world citizenship. We go wherever there is need and when the need is over, move on again to another land! In the words of our patron St. Francis De Sales, we are to bloom where we are planted and that is a great task and challenge!
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