July 14, 2017

Priests’ first-year experiences provide guide to a life of faith

Father Kyle Rodden celebrates the Eucharist during a Mass at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, where he is associate pastor. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Father Kyle Rodden celebrates the Eucharist during a Mass at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, where he is associate pastor. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By John Shaughnessy

As the six men marked the completion of their first year as priests in the archdiocese, they were asked by The Criterion to share their defining moments and impressions from that pivotal year.

Their insights not only provide a glimpse into the rewards and challenges of the first year of priesthood, they also offer a possible guide to all people of faith about how to approach life.

Here are eight guidelines to live a life of faith, gleaned from the first‑year experiences of Fathers James Brockmeier, Anthony Hollowell, Douglas Hunter, Kyle Rodden, Matthew Tucci and Nicolas Ajpacaja Tzoc.

Let God work through you

“The work of God has never been accomplished with large numbers. It has only been accomplished by humility and fidelity,” says Father Hollowell, who pursued graduate studies in Rome during his first year as a priest, and is now associate pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood. “As a priest, I have been blessed to be a part of so many intimate moments between God and his beloved children which have all shown me the hidden ways in which God is at work in the world.

“These intimate moments would never make the nightly news, but they change the world and are accomplishing the Father’s will. St. Paul tells us that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” and our age is no exception. These are privileged days in which to live as a Catholic and to serve as a priest.”

Stay young at heart

“I walk through the halls and visit classrooms at Saints Francis and Clare School most days, and I love getting to know the kids and finding out how much they love their Catholic faith,” says Father Brockmeier, who served as associate pastor of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood during his first year as a priest, and is now associate pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

“Our students are always asking me great questions about the faith and about the priesthood. Both before Mass and walking in the halls of the school, I end up in so many conversations about vocations that start with “Why are you wearing that?” or “Do you have to wear black all the time?” Ministry with our children and young people has been a great joy in my first year of priesthood.”

Continue a willingness to serve

“My first year as a priest has been overwhelming,” says Father Rodden, associate pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis. “I was most attracted to the diocesan priesthood because of the opportunity to minister to the Body of Christ through the liturgy and the sacraments, primarily the Eucharist.  At St. Monica, the opportunity for this ministry is lively, perpetual and diverse.

“At times, it has been overwhelming—the many and varied ways by which I am called to serve. But I am always more overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace working through my weaknesses—my introversion, my limited abilities in speech, my timidity—and how his grace is never outmatched, how he always provides without fail.”

Make prayer a part of your life

“Prayer is vitally important,” says Father Tucci, associate pastor of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis. “We have to intentionally seek Christ out, form and keep a relationship with him. We can’t introduce him to others if we don’t know him.”

Celebrate the sacraments

“Celebrating the sacraments, from baptism to a funeral Mass, has been a great joy for me,” says Father Tzoc, who served as associate pastor of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis during his first year as a priest, and is now associate pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis. “Each sacrament has been a blessing in a different way: baptizing a baby, seeing a marriage and how they look forward to it, and being able to go to the nursing home to celebrate Mass.

“It’s been an experience of joy.”

Savor your bonds

A close bond has formed among the six priests who were ordained on June 25, 2016. Father Douglas Hunter sometimes has dinner with Fathers Tucci and Tzoc, and talks by phone with members of his class.

“I need that sense of community with my brother priests,” says Father Hunter, who served as associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis during his first year as a priest, and is now associate pastor of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

Father Rodden notes, “One of the blessings I have cherished during this first year as a priest is the friendship that my brother priests have offered me. While in seminary, I had brother seminarians all around me. In parish ministry, I encounter my brother priests with much less frequency, but the moments we share always bring my heart joy.”

Forgive—and let God forgive you

“The sacrament I have enjoyed the most has been confession,” says Father Hollowell. “It is always so moving to hear people share their wounds and their hopes, as well as to see God’s desire for us to be reconciled to him.”

Adopt a spirit of gratitude

“I am filled with gratitude to God for this great gift of the priesthood, and I am grateful for the people God has given me the great honor of serving this year,” says Father Brockmeier. “I also have to say that I am grateful that there are many more years of priesthood to come.” †


Related: ‘An experience of blessings’: Humanity, humility and even humor mark lives of six men in their first year as priests

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