The vocations office hosts a barbecue for those who wish to explore the priesthood
About 60 priests, seminarians and men interested in information about a possible priestly vocation recently gathered at the Pastoral Leadership Center for a relaxed evening that included night prayer, a presentation by Bishop Edward Malesic and a brief lecture by Father Mike McCandless. , diocesan director of vocations. .
The bishop shared his vocation story, explaining how he never intended to continue the priesthood. But a series of events during college changed the trajectory of his life.
He told those gathered that he was the youngest of four siblings and the only one who had never attended Catholic school. His parents were both working, so he was a key child, who came home after school, took the key to the milk box and entered the house.
“My parents were not openly Catholic,” he said, explaining that they attended mass every week and expected him to do the same. In high school, he was exposed to other religions and recalled discussions with a teacher – who abandoned Catholicism as a Mormon – and friends of other faiths. “We had a lot of talk about religion in trigonometry class,” he said, referring to conversations with atheist, Methodist and Evangelical Christian friends.
“But there was never a time when I didn’t believe in God,” he added.
He intended to pursue a college education in biology and then work in a medical technology lab in the basement of a hospital.
He dated several girls and said he expected him to leave the Catholic Church at some point.
The acclimatization to college life, including dorm life, was stressful. Bishop Malesic said that one day the Gideons were giving out free Bibles and he took one. “For the first time, I really read the Bible and began to realize that Jesus loved me and could ease my burdens. It has never been personal to me until then.
After a semester, he started going to class. He was a musician and played several instruments, so he took a part-time job playing the organ in the parish church. Once, after attending a conference, he said that the pastor and a nun asked him if he had ever considered the priesthood. He hadn’t, but decided to attend a retreat. It was during this retreat that he realized he was called to the priesthood.
“Everyone’s calling is different,” he told those gathered for the event.
If Jesus called him to follow him, how would he do this and which church was the one and true church? These were some of the questions the bishop grappled with as he discerned his future. He said things always came back to Jesus.
“I realized that he founded the Catholic Church – the only true Church. So my parents were right, ”he joked. “It is the only true Church, even with all its wrinkles.”
His parents wanted to make sure he had something to fall back on in case things didn’t work out. But, after another year of college, they supported his decision to enter seminary. He attended Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus and after his ordination returned to his diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Being pastor was all he wanted to do after ordination, the bishop said. He served in parishes, then was assigned to campus ministry. A few years later, the bishop asked him to study canon law. He worked in diocesan court and parish ministry until he was appointed bishop of Greensburg, Pa., Where he served for five years until his appointment as bishop of Cleveland last year.
“I am here to stay,” he told the assembly.
He also said bonds are formed in seminary and will last a lifetime. He also reminded the group that “we are happier when we do what Jesus wants us to do. I firmly believe that he wants me to be a priest. Congratulations on being here tonight, ”he added.
Father McCandless introduced the priests in attendance and reminded guests that the Vocation Office, their pastors, and others are ready to support them as they discern their calling – whether it be priesthood or something else.
The evening ended with dinner, conversation and games on the quad.
Father McCandless said the vocations office will be holding other events, including retreats, for those interested in the priesthood.
For more information on the priesthood, click here or call 440-943-7631.