Life as a Priest
"I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage." St. Augustine - From the Beginning of His Sermon on Pastors.

My ordination as a priest began a new era in my life.  In seminary I was the student and now I am a "teacher." My faith has certainly grown since I returned to church and then went to seminary.

As a priest I share what I have learned with the parishioners I serve. Of course, I will continue to grow and deepen in my own faith. While formal study has ended, I still try to read journals and books to help me grown in my own understanding of what it means to be a "good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:14-30).

I officially began my first assignment on July 14, 2007 at St. Mary's Southside in the City of Elmira, NY and the Town of Elmira located in Chemung County, NY.  The parish includes the Towns of Southport and Ashland and beyond.

At St. Mary's Southside there was no "typical day" for me.  As time went on I became involved in more and more things. Of course there were the expected tasks. First and foremost was presiding at Mass. When you believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, presiding at Mass is a very special time.

Of course there were baptisms, weddings, and funerals. For me, while baptism is a sacrament, the first of the sacraments, I felt more connected to the people in the preparation that occurs before weddings and funerals. Weddings gave the greatest opportunity to connect to the couple. While funerals come when least expected and seldom did I meet with the family more than once but it can be a powerful moment of God's grace and compassion.

Then come the visits to the hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted-living centers.  There are two hospitals in the city of Elmira. In the county, while I was there, there were six priests who each took a day each week serving as the priest for emergencies. By their very nature, these emergency calls are unexpected, but again they can be powerful moments of grace, especially with the Sacrament of the Sick.

The local Catholic school there was the Holy Family School System and grades pre-K through 5th were located in the old St. Mary's School.  I visited one grade each week.  While working with children was not an easy task for me, I enjoyed it because the children were always so welcoming and happy to have a visit from the priest.

I spoke above of sharing what I have learned. Perhaps one of the most rewarding ministries, beyond celebrating the sacraments, is teaching. I have a lead a six-week Bible study. For four consecutive weeks immediately prior to Mass, I offered four to five minutes teaching about the various parts of the Mass (click here to see the texts). While in Elmira I presented on topics on health care and water preservation. I especially like to answer questions from the people. It is all about awakening the spirit within us. It is about having a personal relationship with Jesus. It not only helps the people to grow in their faith, it helps me to grown in my own faith.

Of course, there were meetings of parish council and finance council and the other meetings that go along with them. Some priests see these as administrative tasks. I see it, yes as administrative, but the point is not administration but ensuring the spiritual welfare of the parishioners through good use of the financial and spiritual resources of the parish. It is about calling forth parishioners to use their gifts for the good of the parish. Things like overseeing our annual diocesan appeal, known as the Catholic Ministries Appeal, is not about money. It is about the mission of the Church to help the people of God. This requires money.

Most of the ministries I have mentioned so far I became involved with almost immediately. When the parish Social Ministry Coordinator retired in June 2008 I took over those responsibilities. As you can see from the Social Ministry section of this web site, Catholic Social Teaching is a significant part of my own faith life. I also served on the Board for directors for Chemung County Office of Catholic Charities. Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we truly love our neighbors then we will do what we can to help, thus the importance of Social Ministry.

We must listen to the needs of parishioners. At St. Mary's, there were several parishioners with Alzheimer's. Their loved ones have asked for help. We were unsure how to help them our parish deacon come in contact with the Learning Institute for Alzheimer's. With them, we began to offer monthly sessions on how to understand the needs and to care for those in need. This may not seem like priestly ministry but it is caring for their needs. I leave the teaching of the sessions to the experts from the Learning Institute for Alzheimer's but coordinated the schedule and I was present for each session as a pastoral presence to the attendees who care for their loved ones.

There is one last ministry that I helped begin at St. Mary's. It is a ministry to reach out to inactive Catholics. We formed a small committee of parishioners whose work to help this ministry develop is critical.

On June 29, 2010 my first assignment came to a close. Beginning that same day I became the Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of the Lakes parish serving Penn Yan, Dundee, Naples, Prattsburgh, Rushville, and Stanley. In this assignment, I became the coordinator of RCIA at St. Michael's, ran the baptismal preparation program, and redid the parish website myself. After the first three years of ordination, the bishop gives us a new assignment to gain "different experience." It certainly was different. St. Mary's was a parish with a single church and I was an "extra" priest there. At Our Lady of the Lakes parish, there are five churches and I am very much needed.

On June 26, 2012, my time at Our Lady of the Lakes comes to a close as I become the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca, NY.

Two of the common questions that the school children in Elmira asked me are "Do you like being a priest?" and "What do you enjoy during the most?"  The simple answer to the first question is, of course, yes.  Being a priest has its challenging moments.  As a person who likes organization one of the challenges for me as a priest is always be open to the unexpected.  I never know when a sick call is coming, when a person might need to talk, or when funerals will come.  Yet, in the "emergencies" of priestly life is where I sometimes feel most needed as a priest and where I most rely on the Holy Spirit.  So, yes, I love being a priest.

To the question "what do you enjoy doing the most" I respond with first and foremost I love presiding at Mass.  The other thing I enjoy is anything that lets me share my faith with others including visiting the school, preaching, and my work for adult faith education.


Check out my blog article on the fourth anniversary of my ordination as a priest.

This page last updated on June 1, 2012