The first step in my journey to the priesthood began when I was nine years old in the fourth grade at Precious Blood School. The Sisters of St. Ann taught there and prepared the boys to serve the priest at the altar. I continued to serve at the altar until I went to Eymard Seminary in Suffern, NY for high school and college. I was impressed with the pastor, Fr. Fontaine of Precious Blood Parish. He promoted eucharistic devotions especially on the First Friday of each month. The pastor of Nativity in Chicopee (Willimansett area), Fr. Simard celebrated 50 years of priesthood when I was in the eighth grade there, and he influenced me as well. His assistant, Fr. Remy, was a model for me. All of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers influenced my development as a seminarian and I am most grateful for their teaching and example.
My first impressions as a priest were the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist and administering the sacrament of Reconciliation by hearing confessions. Later on there were baptisms, weddings and funerals which helped me to appreciate the faith and goodness of the people I serve. I was ordained a priest at St. Jean Baptiste Church in New York in 1956 which was the 100th anniversary of the founding of our Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Paris. At that time and during the next two years I attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome until I obtained by doctorate in theology. During the next twenty-five years I taught our seminarians in Hyde Park and in Cleveland. I was librarian for Blessed Sacrament Seminary in Cleveland.
In 1979 I transferred to Albuquerque, NM and became the ecumenical officer for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and assistant at St. Charles Borromeo parish. I served there for twenty four years until I was assigned to St. Jean Baptiste Church and SSS Community as local superior in 2003.This second phase of my priesthood was also a high point for me — a vocation within a vocation. I consulted about the relationship between the Eucharist and the unity of the Church and was greatly helped by Fr. Jean Tillard, OP who sent me articles on the Eucharist as the Sacrament of Christian unity. I was convinced of the profound relationship between the Eucharist and the Church and its unity. St. Thomas Aquinas had made the link (along with St. Augustine) centuries earlier. I continue to write and be involved in dialogue and ministry connected with promoting Christian unity as much as I can.
The shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life is not because of Vatican II. It is a cultural development that has much more to do with a shift from seeing greatness in the gift of oneself for something and someone greater than oneself. This is the way to self-fulfillment. The current cultural change has led to an emphasis on the individual and personal satisfaction. The gospel puts it very well. To find blessing or happiness, one must give of oneself. It is a matter of love. Focused on God’s love for us, one realizes that loving God and neighbor is the best response to his love.
It is a tremendous honor and privilege to serve God and his people, day in and day out, in the name of Jesus. It is a calling and a grace for which I will be ever grateful.