There’s a buzz of excitement in our parish lately. A new priest is set to join us on the first of July -- and everyone can’t wait to hear all about his children.
Don’t mean that metaphorically. Like we would use, say, “flock.” Our new parish priest has kids. Of his own. From his marriage.
According to early reports circulating the pews, he joined the priesthood late in life, after his wife passed on and his children were grown. He’s served at other parishes in the Los Angeles area, and has a great reputation.
This is becoming more common, as the church reaches out in new ways to attract more priests to the fold. A Jesuit friend of mine comes from the same background – he commited to the priesthood after his wife’s untimely death. His two sons were (and are) very supportive -- he is a fantastic priest.
I get a kick out of him in a few ways: 1) I love watching people’s faces when he starts to talk about his children, his wife, his career and his marriage. 2) And I love calling him and hearing crying infants in the background, when he’s been recruited to help babysit for his grandchildren -- just to give the kids a bit of a break.
(Talk about children and grandchildren: take this link to a story about a widowed man who joined the priesthood in Massachusetts a couple of years ago, after raising ten kids: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1134173/posts.)
It all seems to make my friend that much better at his job. Some people at first are a little surprised to hear his story, but very quickly they find themselves drawn to him because of it – here is someone we share something with, but who at the same time chose to walk the road less travelled at a key point of re-examination in his life.
Pope Benedict is set this week to wrap up what he proclaimed to be “the year of the priest,” with an international gathering of clerics in Rome . I hope, nestled in there among the crowd, are a few good men like the priest I know, and the one soon to join my parish. They represent one new path for the priesthood – a welcome one in a troubled time.