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You Are A Priest Forever

I have had the privilege of knowing many, many priests in my short (so far) life.  As a child, my mother was very involved in our parish as the volunteer DRE (yes, a volunteer DRE! I cannot even comprehend finding a volunteer for the parish I work for to take on all of the responsibilities of our Religious Education program).  The consequence of this (besides many Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings spent at the Church) was that we really got to know the priests who were stationed at our parish.  In Elementary School I was also involved as an altar server.  Since I also attended the Catholic grade school across the street, I was scheduled to serve the morning Daily Mass as well for a week at a time.  This is great one-on-one time for a young person with the Priest, the Reader (who later became my Confirmation Sponsor and joined the ranks of the Saints this past Fall), and Sacristan.

Then when deciding which college I would attend following graduation, I was drawn to three schools: Saint Vincent in Latrobe, Saint Francis in Loretto, and Franciscan University in Steubenville. Any of these schools would have exposed me to lots of priests; however, at Saint Vincent there was an added dimension since they also have a Major Seminary and an Archabbey right on campus.  I have had countless monks (both priests and brothers) as teachers, Campus Ministers, co-workers, prayer companions, and friends!

Following college, my two major jobs have been working at Catholic Churches.  I have become very close to the pastors and parochial vicars at these parishes - some of my most trusted friends.  This position also introduced me to some priests who work, live, and serve in a small diocese in the middle of the Congo (Diocese of Kole).

Finally, this weekend I was honored to attend the Ordination of a priest at my Alma Mater - Saint Vincent.  I met this young man in a small chapel at Compline one night very early Freshman year.  He wasn't even a Catholic at the time - just a genuinely nice guy!  Over the course of the next four years we served in Campus Ministry together, traveled to two continents (Brazil for a mission trip and Germany for World Youth Day), and became friends.  His journey of conversion through RCIA guided us through our sophomore year as we were preparing to see Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne, Germany.  Our Junior year took us to Brazil for a life changing experience with a group of very holy nuns (where I also learned that pineapples grow on bushes and oranges are actually green on the outside).  Senior year led us through the art of discernment as he prepared to enter the Benedictine Monastery to join the ranks of men who had spent their lives dedicated to young people, guiding them in faith and preparing them for life in the world.

The past seven years since graduation (wow, seriously - seven years) have been beautiful for me to witness the strength of his faith and the beauty of his journey to priesthood.  As I drove to Latrobe on Friday afternoon I couldn't help but think about how amazing the Lord is, how He works even when we aren't looking to help us accomplish his plan for our lives.  He uses it all for His glory!

Saturday, May 17th, I pulled up to Saint Vincent (where I had not been in more than six years) and was greeted by the first person I met when I drove up that same road the first day of Freshman year - Julie, one of the best roommates I've ever had the pleasure of.  I entered the church where many, many hours were spent in prayer with the monks of the Abbey (some early in the morning, some late in the evening) to witness the Ordination of our friend.  Celebrated by the Bishop of Greensburg, the Abbot of Saint Vincent, and a see of Holy Priests from the abbey, the transformation of Brother Michael to Father Michael occurred.

As I received a blessing from Father that afternoon, I couldn't help but think "My friend's a priest"* - that guy who I met almost 11 years ago that one night at compline - a regular day, now he's a priest!  How great the Lord is!

On Sunday I had the honor of reading at his first Mass in the chapel where I spent so many late nights, early mornings, in prayer, tears, laughter, and community!  One of the hallmarks of the Benedictine tradition is stability - to be in the 'home' I had for so many years was an honor.  I look forward to many, many years with my friend, the priest.  I cannot wait to see the amazing work the Lord continues to do with the 'yes' this man gave on Saturday!

Father Michael, OSB and I on Sunday

Father Brian was the Campus Minister during our time at Saint Vincent

It doesn't seem to be enough to just say 'Thank You' to the following men for your influence in my life because of your 'yes' to priesthood.  But alas it is all I have, so Thank You to: Father Chad, Father Ananias, Father Eric, Father Brian, Father Michael, Father Thomas More, Father Tom, Father Wulfstan, Father Rene, Father Max, Father Remo, Msgr Bellow, Father Pat, Father DeClue, Father Cahill, Father Winslow, Father Kauth, Father Riehl, Abbé Emmanuel, Abbé Blaise, Abbé Charles, Father Medta, Father Meinrad, Father Miller, Father Donald, Father John Mary, Father Cyprian, Father Shawn, Father Polinek, Father Eckert, Abbot Douglas, Bishop Jugis, Bishop Troutman, Father Dan, Father Steve, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, the soon-to-be Fathers Carter, Buchanan, & McNulty, and the many others who I cannot even begin to name.  Without you, I would not be the me I am today!

* Also thought - now it's complete - I have a friend who's a priest so now we can put our heads together and change the world (or maybe the way parishes are run)! HAHA ... the take over begins soon!

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