“I’ve also seen light shining brightly in many rediscovering their faith: Notes detailing how a family learned to pray together during the pandemic.”
This comes from The Catholic Virginian, written by Father John Baab, ordained in 2018, describing the highs and lows of being a new priest.
The shadows came first. A dear friend of mine left the priesthood a month later. Since then, probably a dozen priests I know have left or been dismissed. Many are friends. There were also the “reports” — Pennsylvania, Mc- Carrick, Virginia and many more. The first year of priesthood was lonely, too. In Virginia Beach, my nearest friend was 45 minutes away. I made good friends eventually but only with effort.
But there was light.
Despite the struggles of my first year, there was tremendous grace: Accompanying a family after the tragic loss of their teenage daughter. Being surrounded by boisterous, smiling kids after Easter Mass, and then having one mom hand me an infant for the picture. Learning to golf with patient parishioners.
God placed many in my path to reach for him. Then after only a year, I transferred to one of the largest, busiest and most delightful parishes, St. Bede in Williamsburg.
Then came 2020.
Amid the pandemic, Jesus surprised me with what I always wanted as a priest. My “pod family” isn’t bothered by my “make it up as I go” style. Unannounced visits are welcome. Their three beautiful children ask incessantly, “Is Father John coming over?”
I’ve also seen light shining brightly in many rediscovering their faith: Notes detailing how a family learned to pray together during the pandemic. Catholic school students smiling because they’re in their desks. One non-religious student told me I reached her with my homily. Dozens of cards and emails about lives changing are encouraging. So, too, are parishes entering the digital age.
My young priest counterpart, Father Cassidy Stinson, fashioned a professional grade livestream system from scratch for our parish. From across the globe, people have watched our English and Spanish Masses and become adopted parishioners.
I’ve witnessed many people returning to the Eucharist after long years away, even if with having to wear a mask or only worshiping online. Parishioners reaching out to estranged friends and relatives; a young woman giving up TikTok and starting to pray; the Williamsburg House of Mercy overflowing with donations of food, dollars and eager volunteers; and once dust-covered Bibles have become worn.
All of these experiences have been grace.
Read it all. Pray for our priests!