The Catholic Standard, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington has opened up a space in their online edition to share stories of priests who have made a difference in our lives. What a great way to share the ordinary and extraordinary ways our priests serve God’s people.
Here’s my story. I don’t think I would be doing the work I am doing today if I hadn’t met Fr. Dave Fitz-Patrick. Fr. Dave is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who is a military chaplain serving in the Air Force. I met Fr. Dave while he was serving the Diocese of Fairbanks as pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral. I was a Jesuit Volunteer. My volunteer assignment was to serve as youth minister and coordinator of social concerns for the Cathedral parish. About three months into the job, I discovered that I loved everything about it!
The year was 1985 and at that time there were not many lay people involved in parish ministry and so while I entertained thoughts of doing this work full-time after finishing my volunteer year, I assumed that it really wasn’t possible for a lay person. I did not think I had a call to religious life and so I decided that I really shouldn’t think to much more about it.
About a month later, Fr. Dave asked me what I planned to do after my volunteer year. I said I wasn’t really sure. He asked me if I was enjoying my work and I said I loved it. He then asked if I would think about serving the church in a full-time capacity. I asked if it meant becoming a nun because I really diidnt’ think that was what the Lord was asking of me. He said that it did not necessarily mean that– as there were lay people who were beginning to work in parish ministry, but it would mean studying theology.
A deal of a life time
He then made me a deal, if I would agree to stay on in my job, I would be given time in the summer to study theology. It was a deal I couldn’t refuse and it began a mentoring relationship that saw me through two masters degrees and a doctorate! It was the prayer, advice and support that Fr. Dave gave me that helped me develop the spiritual life and practical skills I needed to serve the church in ecclesial ministry.
In big ways and small
I really knew he had my back, when I took a position as a pastoral associate in a parish and he called to check in on me and asked how it was going. I told him I made my first visit to a home-bound parishioner and when I asked her if she had a favorite prayer we could pray together, she responded with the Memorare. I hesitated because I did not know the words by heart. She saw my hesitation and commented on her concern for the future of the church, if “people” couldn’t pray. I was pretty embarrassed. Three days later in the mail I received a hand-made palm size copy of the Memorare with a note saying to hang in there and keep visiting the sick!
Click here and share your favorite story. http://www.cathstan.org/main.asp?SectionID=53&TM=46024.06