"I thank my God whenever I think of you; and when I pray for you all, my prayers are always joyful, because of the part you have taken in the work of the Gospel from the first day until now."
We have all been inspired by the stories many of our parishioners have shared about their spiritual journey. I'd like to share glimpses of my own story.
Upon graduating high school, I decided that I wanted to be a Holy Cross brother, a teaching order. That summer 26 of us began our journey at St. Joseph's Novitiate in Valatie, NY. It was a wonderful opportunity to grow in prayer and to live in community with a great group of people. While in chapel, I experienced a call from God that I was meant to be a priest. Words can't describe the overwhelming experience. My whole body and spirit felt God's presence, and I was awed and humbled, and yet filled with a deep sense of peace. For the next few days, I didn't share this experience with anyone, but the way was now clear.
The following September I began the college seminary, and after four years was sent to Rome for my theological studies. The experience of being at North American College with people from all over the country, and at the Gregorian University with students from all over the world, was a gift. Being in Rome during the Vatican Council was also a gift. My classes were taught in Latin, which was not a gift!
The years passed, and in December 1967, fifty two of us were ordained at St. Peter's Basilica. One humorous moment I remember from that morning was walking up to the altar to be ordained. It was a solemn, quiet moment for everyone else, but I can still hear my Mom saying " Jerry, don't trip." Mom always kept me grounded! And, as the years went by, I did trip in different ways.
In June of '68 I returned home, anxious to begin parish ministry. Being able to serve as a parish priest has always been a special blessing. I have been awed by the goodness, the courage, and the faith of people who face times of sadness and loss with courage and hope. Their faithful lives strengthened my own faith. Their spirit of hope and joy was contagious.
As time went on, my desire to marry and have a family of my own grew stronger. Thankfully, I met and fell in love with Joy, and these past 43 years have been even more special. The early years were quite hectic, with four children in the first six and a half years. They have all grown up to be caring, joyful adults, and have blessed us with six, soon to be seven, grandchildren.
When I left the Roman priesthood, my desire was always to continue in ministry. My hope was to one day serve as an Episcopal priest. I am deeply thankful to Canon Bill Johnson and all who encouraged me on this journey. The years at Holy Trinity, Pawling, and then at Church of the Messiah, Rhinebeck, were the " hundredfold" Jesus promised His followers.
When I retired and we moved to NC, Joy and I were amazed during our first visit to Holy Cross. The warm welcome was so genuine, the music was awesome, the homily inspiring, and at Communion time, Joy smiled and whispered to me, " Honey, we're home." These past years helping out on the Ministry team with Andy, Ed, Dick and now Patti Mary, has been a special blessing.
For all that has been and will be, Alleluia!!