Vocations enthusiast!

I just sent in my reply card for the fourth ordination to the priesthood that I will have ever attended. I feel so blessed to be invited to be present in these special days. I was not sure if I should write this article or not. I did not know if writing about my love for the vocation to the priesthood would sound inappropriate coming from a lay woman, but I was assured that it would not. I can also promise you that everything I write about the vocation comes from a genuine heart of love and gratitude. 

I do not remember any time in my life when a priest was not of significance. I remember as a child thinking that God must be my parish priest. I discovered I was not alone. As I was leaving Mass this weekend a little girl pointed to Mary on my pastor’s chasuble and said, “That’s your mother” and finished with “and then you died on a cross.” Her mom apologized for her daughter thinking that our pastor was Jesus. I remember sitting in church and memorizing everything the priest said and did and then copying him through the Mass. I remember being so enthralled by what the priest did that I would walk around my house handing out Ritz crackers always saying, “Body of Christ.” I remember weekends sitting at the table with our priest because we always had one over for dinner. I remember running into church because I just wanted to make sure I said hello to our priest. I remember crying over priests who were transferred to another parish because it was like losing a family member. 

When I got married, I sent out nine invitations to priests. Six priests concelebrated my wedding. I never realized this was a strange thing until people started questioning how many priests I know. My life would be so different if it were not for the many priests who have been a part of it. While the priests in my church made a significant impact on me as a child, it’s the friendships as an adult that continue to shape who I am. When I was in college, I would spend hours with the seminarians getting help on my theology assignments. It was then that I began to understand how much these men dedicated themselves to learning, sacrifice and prayer. Besides their love for the Church and for Christ, these young men had a genuine selflessness about them that drove them to want to follow what Christ commanded; to leave everything behind and follow Him. 

I continue to see that selflessness every day in the lives of these men. When my grandmother passed away three years ago, my pastor went above and beyond to make it financially possible for us to give her the send-off that she deserved. When my dad passed away in October, it was one of my priest friends who stayed on the phone with me as I broke down picking out my dad’s casket. It was that same priest who gave an incredible homily at the funeral. But the biggest impact they have had on my life has been the impact they have had on my husband. When we started dating he was not a practicing Catholic. He willingly attended Mass with me on Sundays, but hanging out in the rectory after Mass took some getting used to. Then he began to play PlayStation games with a priest, going out for dinner with priests, going to sporting events with priests, and spending almost every Sunday during football season at the rectory watching the games. They have shown my husband the human side of the priesthood that has allowed him to come to see the Risen Christ. While the number of priests in my life may be a little abnormal, it is not just me who can have a relationship with them. All priests wish to make connections with their parishioners. 

I know there are priests who have done terrible things. I have personally known one. It is heart-wrenching and disturbing, and I by no means wish to lessen the seriousness of their offenses. What I do know is that there are so many more great priests in this world than corrupt ones, and they need our support.

This year we have one priest getting ordained in the Diocese of Fall River (and none in the Diocese of Providence). There are more priests retiring every year than there are getting ordained. They are asking more and more of those who are ordained. While every diocese has a vocation director, it is all of our jobs to support the vocation and to encourage young men to discern. The most important thing we can do is pray for them. One of my closest friends entered seminary this year and it was such a proud moment for me to see him answer God’s call. If you have a son, nephew, grandson, friend, or neighbor who is considering the priesthood, support them in that decision. Pray for them daily. Also, I ask you to join me in praying for Deacon Chris Peschel who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 7. We, as a diocese, are truly blessed to have him. 

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.com.

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