The following is an interview with Joe, Jim and Jeff, three residents of St. John Fisher. We asked them a series of questions to get their insights and their reasons for choosing the priesthood.
When did you realize that you wanted to join the priesthood and how did this come about?
Joe: The earliest recollection I have of wanting to be a priest probably was about the fifth grade. I guess maybe at first it kind of haunted me, it just never went out of my mind. You go through life, you grow up and it came back about three years ago. I decided that was the time to look into it. It was then I found out about St. John Fisher Residence. I have been here three years now.
Jim: I was about the same age. One of my influences was Msgr. Mc Guire of St. Aloysius and he was an older man, about 70. Serving underneath him was a very humble experience. Everybody listened to him. It seemed he had a sense of command of the entire parish. As time went on and I became a little older, it was still in my thoughts. Throughout high school I had persistent thoughts of the priesthood. It never really left. But also within that time I did fulfill a lot of things I felt I had to.
Jeff: I was an altar boy and I guess I had that in the back of my mind. I lived with an aunt who encouraged me.
How has John Fisher Residence changed your life?
It is interesting. Talk about Fr. Dowling, a St. Mary's type of priesthood, I think it is the idea you sort of have to just wait and see. You do not realize it. I think as a little boy you are fascinated by the whole thing and you see this man up there. Wow, I want to do that. When you come to the Fisher Residence you come with everything that you think you are and have and you come here and you realize there is a lot of growing you have to do. I thought I had grown up and matured and had been responsible with a house and sisters, my mother, job and the whole experience. Then you come here and you take that attitude in with you and all of a sudden you realize you do not know anything. You really do not. It is a process. A long process you go through and daily conversion. The house really redesigns you, remakes you, not to be this idealistic, not a merry type of priest, but a real person. This is what you come here to do. You come here to know yourself, to say, hey, this is what the priesthood is all about.
What are your goals once you are ordained? Have you set goals for yourself?
No. We take one step at a time. You sort of look at that end goal and try to look at it. I know myself I think what is it going to be like when you get there. One of the questions they do ask you prior to the seminary is what kind of priest do you expect to be in the year 2000 or whatever. How do I even begin to answer this question. I do not know. It is really hard. You can be you, all the things you like being in this house and outside and take that with you to the people.
I think being an effective priest and compassionate is probably the best. You are not going to want a priest, not necessarily uncharitable, but one who is connected who can deal with a lot of emotions. That is the toughest thing to do, juggle personalities.
Even in the Navy there were multiple personalities and no one agrees. In a parish you may have it, but you do not have to live with everyone. You will have parishioners who will not be satisfied. You have to learn to juggle that.
In some instances they reflect on who you are, not what you do. To me, it is not so much the studies, it is the adjustment, the mental adjustment you have to have.
What are your views on celibacy that is so much discussed in the priesthood?
To be an effective priest you need to concentrate on yourself, not a family. Christ was perfect. If we are supposed to walk in the path of Christ, we are supposed to be his image, his shadow, then we have to follow him totally. We are laying our lives down for him and for other people. In order for us to be Christlike we have to be like him. Celibacy is a struggle, it will always be a struggle, but with God's grace and help we can accomplish it. It is a challenge. Going to a coed Catholic University you get to experience a challenge. I personally see my self interacting with girls, beautiful girls in the school, when you come here you think it is shut out but it is not. You embrace it. You really find yourself saying, am I supposed to get married? Am I supposed to be a priest? How does life present it to you? You do it. When you come to that cross road you figure out what has to be done and you go from there. Sometimes you do not even think about it. It is part of your life. You see your family, your brothers with their wives and kids and sometimes you get envious, but at the same time, you deal with it, you face it, it is a challenge like anything else.
On another level, I think if I did not work toward celibacy I would not concentrate on my spiritual life. I do not think you could devote yourself 100% to your parish and 100% to your wife and kids. It is a problem.
Do you see the Church changing their views on celibacy because the apostles were married and up until the middle ages the priests were married in the Catholic Church?
Peter left his family. He sacrificed his family to follow Christ.
It comes back to personality. What do you expect to be. This is one thing that keeps coming up and you have to face it. For most guys here it is not an issue. You know coming into the priesthood that this is part of it. It is one of the demands. It becomes a personal choice. As you are doing the seminarian thing you confront it and you see your peers and you see how they handle things. Guys talk. You deal with these things on a one on one level and you find out how guys deal with it. You see how normal everyone is. I do not think it is an issue with us.
It is something you know coming into it.
Do you see the church changing? You remember Vatican II changed the Church, do you foresee more changes and how would you like to see it changed?
That is hard. I think I see it changing, it always changes, but the basic world stays the same. As it relates to celibacy, I think it is great that priest are celibate. It is great to deal with dedication and celibacy. I don't think there will be too many changes, which I think is great. It keeps it on solid ground.
Do you think if the leadership of the Church changes the church will change? As you said, the Pope is very conservative and the church will not change. But if someone else would come do you foresee that. Do you see it could happen?
It is inevitable that there will be change. There is always a different mind set of doing things and running things. Right now it is hard to project that far. You can only think what would it be like. You wonder, where would I stand on the issue. How would I feel. You can only speculate. How would the church be, would it go this way or that way. You can only think what would it be like. You wonder, where would I stand on the issue. You really say, what if the Pope were to say well we should have married priests. Where would I stand? How do you fight the issue? Do you fight the issue? It is a very tough question to answer. If it should happen, it just changes things.
How do you see your vocation different from any other?
You are dealing with different issues that you have to face yourself. I think everyone deals with different issues, you have to grow at it, you struggle, you think how do I have to change myself today.
After you finish, and I know this is a difficult question, how would you like to be remembered. How would you like to be remembered after you dedicated your life to the Church?
As close to Jesus as possible.
Probably the same as I am now. I do not know. That is tough. Just a myself as I am now. Nothing special. Nothing spectacular.
I don't plan on carrying the world on my shoulders. I do not know. I would have to give that some thoughts. I would hope within my training, a prayerful priest. A dedicated priest. I think, if off the cuff, a prayerful and dedicated priest.