We hear the reflections of recently ordained priests as they travel forward in this new chapter of their ministry
Reflection on Priestly Ordination
by Father David Hunter
“Six years? That’s a long time” is the usual reaction when people ask how long it takes to become a Priest. Certainly, it seems like a long time, and in many ways, it is, but the more a person considers the privilege of Priesthood perhaps it suddenly seems too short! The Lord gives his Priests spectacular privileges, the celebration of Mass, hearing confessions, anointing the sick and being shepherd to His people amongst other things.
In some ways I still feel like I did when I first considered a priestly vocation, like Peter who said Lord leave me for I am a sinful man. However, we often forget that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves, after all He created and sustains us in being! The Lord calls those whom he desires and not necessarily those with the best natural qualities. This was true with His Apostles and remains true to this day. Becoming a Priest can be a little intimidating, but as the Lord tells St Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you”, and requires faith. I’m not confident in myself but in God’s grace.
I am also conscious I carry a legacy with me, namely being one of the final men in a 130-year line to be formed for the Priesthood exclusively at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. Our patron, Saint John leaned on the breast of Our Lord and listened to the beating of the Sacred Heart, then he took the Blessed Virgin Mary as his mother. These two things underline how I see my Priestly spirituality, closeness to Our Lord and devotion to Our Lady. This is turn will lead me to love and serve His people.
I put on my ordination card a quote from Ps113 “not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name give Glory”. This is because I am conscious all I have and am is because of God’s goodness and mercy, anything good that appears to come from me is really from Him.
Fr David Hunter
Assistant Priest, St John the Baptist, Purley
Ordained July 2021
"God writes straight with crooked lines"
by Father Dermott O’Gorman
The old expression goes: “God writes straight with crooked lines” and this rings true with my vocation journey. I first felt called to priesthood as an altar server at school, but my route to ordination was circuitous. It was only after university and some years working that I reconnected more seriously with my faith and felt the Lord’s call to follow him as a priest. I ‘took the plunge’ and recall sitting on the plane at Gatwick to start seminary in Valladolid, wondering how I would survive! But the Lord has blessed me with joy at the deepest level, even amidst challenges. My formation has strengthened me with confidence, and rekindled the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage, to enter a range of situations from which I previously would have retired.
I have only been ordained for a short period of time, but have been privileged to experience a varied ministry, sharing in some of the most beautiful and poignant events of people’s lives. I’ve experienced the awe of saying daily Mass for the people, forgiving sins in confession, baptising babies and teaching the faith in our schools. I’ve also shared in touching moments of grief and sadness, such as anointing terminally ill patients with Covid-19 and conducting funerals.
Through being a celibate, you model your life on the Lord’s and represent the hope of the resurrection, one the world cannot give. Celibacy is a vital sign to the lonely or bereaved that God is enough, and it is Him alone who fulfils us. All young people should consider if the Lord is calling them to follow him in this way so the Eucharist and the sacraments will always be available. But whatever our specific vocation, we are all called to holiness through regular prayer, receiving the sacraments and serving our neighbour.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded young people that “the world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness”. May we all follow the Lord’s specific call in our lives to become the great people that He calls us to be.
Fr Dermott O'Gorman
Assistant Priest, St George’s Cathedral, London
Ordained July 2020
"The merciful and loving heart of Jesus"
by Father John Howard
They say the first few days at a new job are the longest. It has been a similar experience for me starting out as a priest. However, a better analogy than a job is probably getting to know one's in-laws after marriage. Because a parish isn't a place of work but a community coming together to worship Our Lord and desiring to grow not in profit but holiness.
As a seminarian, I remember seeing a retired parishioner every Sunday at Mass whenever I was on holiday and back in my home parish. I was inspired by her piety and dedication to the Mass, evident by the obvious physical struggle it took her to walk and so get herself to Mass each Sunday. In one of my few conversations with her, she said, 'it is a beautiful thing to be a priest, where you turn man's hearts to the loving heart of God'. Her witness and words encouraged me as a seminarian. I hope and pray that I live up to her great description of the priesthood.
Without prompting anyone to do so, I have already experienced people coming to the parish or to me as a priest looking for the merciful and loving heart of Jesus. I have experienced this when I have seen people come into the church to light a candle and pray for a loved one, when parents bring their new-born to be baptised, when families come in their best outfits to celebrate First Holy Communion and Confirmation, when a recently engaged couple come enquiring about marriage preparation, when I have received a call asking for a priest to come and give their mother the Last Rites as she comes to the end of her life and when people have come desiring to receive forgiveness and healing through the sacrament of Confession.
In my short time of being a priest, I have found people coming to me desiring to receive the love and mercy of Christ through the sacraments, to be been the most life-giving and formative moments of my priesthood.
Please continue to pray that I may be a faithful witness and instrument of Jesus’ merciful and loving heart in my parish.
Fr John Howard
Assistant Priest, St Thomas of Canterbury, Kent
Ordained July 2020
“The harvest is rich but the labourers are few.”
by Father Francis Murphy
Some priests speak of knowing from infancy that God was calling them to the priesthood, but for me it was more a case of slowly responding to what had, in youth, been only a vague notion. I first had the idea of the possibility of becoming a priest in my early teens, having been blessed to grow up in a Catholic family with the example of good parish priests. Later, however, I drifted in my feelings about priesthood - and indeed my Catholic faith generally - and it was not until I reached Oxford that I began to attend vocation discernment events organised by our zealous university chaplain.
And yet still I was not sure. With hindsight I was looking for certainty, perhaps some cast-iron proof that this was the path that God was calling me to follow, before I was willing to take a risk. I wanted a degree of confidence that I now realise can only come from taking the plunge, embracing that which prayer suggests the Lord is asking of you. I spent time teaching in England and South America, pursued graduate studies, and considered other possible careers before I finally accepted what I would discover had been evident to others long before it was to me. Nothing else would bring me the fulfilment and joy which are to be found in answering the call, in surrendering oneself to God’s service in the sacred priesthood.
From the day I entered seminary to the day I write these words, I have not regretted pursuing this path. The journey is not always straightforward; seminary formation has its times of trial, and parish life can be demanding. But if you suspect that the Lord who loves you and who knows you - better than you love and know yourself - is calling you to labour for His harvest, how can you refuse?
Fr Francis Murphy
Sub-Dean, St George’s Cathedral, London
Ordained Priest 2019
Images courtesy of Marcin Mazur/CBCEW
and Andrew Mitchell