This past July 27th the parishioners had a little party to celebrate my one year anniversary as a priest. It is so hard to believe that an entire year has already gone by! These are some of the things that strike me the most about my first year of priesthood:
* A GREAT PARISH: The bishop assigned me to a large parish in Bluffton, SC, which surpassed my expectations in every way. I was so blessed to be able to learn the ropes from a very experienced and holy pastor who went out of his way to be kind and helpful to me. (My favorite example: at our house there is only room in the garage for one car, and he insisted on parking outside all year so that I could use the garage!) The people of the parish were friendly and supportive, the parish staff fun to work with, and there were activities galore… what more could a new priest ask for?
* MASS & CONFESSION: When people ask, “What’s the best part about being a priest?”, it’s kind of like asking parents to choose their favorite kid! But definitely at the top of the list is celebrating the Holy Mass and the sacrament of Confession. To be the instrument through which Jesus becomes truly present at the altar, to hold the Body and Blood of Christ in my hands as we participate in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary… it will forever blow my mind! And how moving and humbling it is in the confessional, to be an instrument of God’s mercy and forgiveness for my brothers and sisters in Christ!
* VISITING THE SICK: One of the most moving things to do as a priest is to visit those who are sick and dying, assuring them of God’s love and mercy, and helping prepare them to meet their Lord! It is also inspiring to see how Jesus is present in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, continuing to strengthen, comfort, and even heal as he did 2000 years ago. One of the first visits I made was to a teenage girl dying of leukemia. Her family was desperate because her bloodcount was dangerously low, indicating that the normal treatment was not working and that the doctors were going to have to try a harsher and more dangerous therapy in a few days. I prayed with them and anointed her, with nothing spectacular seeming to happen. But three days later I got an excited call from her family: the doctors were amazed to find that her bloodcount was suddenly back up where it needed to be, and (as it turned out) she is now in remission! It shows the power of our prayers and that beautiful sacrament!
* SCHOOL & YOUTH GROUP: The most fun part of the ministry was the parish school, which had just opened, and our youth groups. I would visit the school classes every week, teaching them about Jesus and our beautiful faith, and celebrating Mass with them every Friday. I got to know all of their names and be a real father figure to them… as the local paper said in an article about me, “No children, but 150 kids!” And likewise, it was so much fun working with our teens, helping them grow closer to Christ, and all of the fun sports and trips (like paintball or rafting!)
* AN ADVENTURE: Every day as a priest, you don’t know what surprises the Lord might have in store for you. You kind of have to go with the flow, staying close to Jesus and always being ready to swing into action. That’s why, when the kids joke with me that I remind them of the Peter Parker guy from the Spider-Man movies, I always tell them, “If I could choose between being Spider-Man for real, with the super strength and powers and all, and being a priest, I would TOTALLY choose to be a priest!”Priesthood, Vocations