Our priests after Christmas Midnight Mass
In this age of Catholic Church priest sex scandals, I took a serious look at the priests that surround me in my everyday life. They say that you really don’t know people until you live with them. Fortunately, I live with three dedicated priests, while an additional dedicated priest resides at our other rectory in National Park. We are very blessed to have five priests (including me) residing in our parish. Two come from other countries: India and Nigeria. The other two have some connection to Atlantic City (in some ways, a world unto its own!) I was born in Philadelphia but grew up in Wildwood.
While two of us are assigned here full time to do parish work, the other three priests serve the diocese in various capacities. Fr. Nick is in charge of priest personnel, Fr. Ernest is chaplain to two hospitals and Fr. Hugh takes care of the deaf ministry and others with disabilities or special needs.
We all have different personalities, but one thing we all seem to share is a sense of humor. While all five of us are not always together each night for dinner, when we are together, we usually laugh. We discuss matters of the church and the world. We learn about differing customs and cultures. We get to hear about our various family members. In sum, we seem to get along and enjoy each other’s company.
From what I can observe, each of us enjoys being a priest. I know that I do. We have well over 100 combined years of priestly service between us, having experienced many, many situations—some in common and some absolutely unique. Together we have to face the unpleasant circumstances of scandalous matters for which we were not personally responsible. Yet, we all share a priestly fraternity—a brotherhood—with the unified purpose of serving the Catholic Church through its people.
The average parishioner doesn’t see Fr. Ernest getting called in the middle of the night, or at dinner time, to anoint a sick or dying person or to comfort a family after a death. You don’t necessarily see Fr. Hugh practicing American sign language for hours, preparing for each and every occasion in his ministry. You may not observe Fr. Jose offering Mass at one of our many facilities for the aging or being called to someone’s home to anoint a dying person. You probably don’t realize Fr. Nick’s concern for all the priests of the diocese, including our retired priests, and what is entailed when various difficult situations come up. However, I have personally witnessed all of the above taking place in real time. I have seen men trying to be—albeit imperfectly—Christ to others.
Personally, I have never had any second thoughts or serious doubts about the calling that I heard from the Lord. My vocation was officially set in motion when I was 18 years old—40 years ago! Would I do it over again? Yes, I would. What many may not understand is I believe that God knows what is best for me and for my eternal salvation. I firmly believe that He chose this path for me. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you . . .. (Jn. 15: 16)
Please say a prayer for your priests each day. I know that it might be considered a horrendous time to try to promote priestly vocations. However, I know that Jesus is still in charge of His Church and that He is ever-working to purify it—including the sacred priesthood.
Fr. Ed Namiotka