The Priesthood

One of the most common questions I get asked by our Catholic school children is “why did you become a priest?” Since on May 7th I just celebrated my 16th anniversary of ordination, I hope that you will permit me to share a reflection based on this question. Ever since I was a young boy, I had a fascination about God and faith. I remember how much I enjoyed listening to the stories about the saints, serving at daily Mass, and praying with my grandmother. I see this now as a particular grace in my life, the grace of being attracted quite naturally to religious practices from a very young age. By the time I was in high school I remember that my attraction to religion continued to grow. I would often attend daily Mass at 7am before school, finding great peace just sitting in the church. After Mass I often thought to myself “I wish I didn’t have to leave the church, I wish that instead of heading to school now I could just stay here”. These thoughts slowly led me to consider the priesthood. I went to see my parish priest when I was 18 years old, a senior in high school, to tell him that I was considering the priesthood. He was very happy and we sat down to talk about it. He arranged for me to meet with the Vocations Director, who gave me a booklet about the formation at the Seminary. I still remember sitting in my room and reading that booklet over and over again. It described the schooling necessary to become a priest, listing all the courses that I would have to take, and describing the 4 facets of priestly formation: spiritual, academic, pastoral, and human. The goal seemed so far away, an extensive and a very lengthy process of 8 years of studies. And then there was a problem, the biggest challenge that I would have to face: a commitment to a celibate life. I knew what it meant, after all, I’ve been a celibate my entire young life. But I was also keenly aware of the attraction towards women, and more specifically towards marriage. Could I give up on the gift of marriage? Having someone next to me to love, and to be loved by? Could I live a life of peace and satisfaction without the gift of children and a family? Without the possibility of ever being a father? These questions remained with me for a long time, about 5 years since my initial visit with my parish priest. I felt stuck for what seemed like a long time, not knowing what I should do, what I could do. The break came one year on a Christmas Eve. I remember sitting in my room and playing the guitar. The thought about being a priest was with me stronger than ever, even as I continued to ponder the possibility of marriage and family life. All of a sudden I thought to myself: “I am going to the seminary, I am going to be a priest”. I’m not sure what prompted such a clear decision, but as soon as I thought it or said it to myself, a peace came over me. It has now been over 23 years since that memorable Christmas Eve, and the peace has never really left me. God’s ways are mysterious, and thinking back about God’s ways in my life is truly helpful. Perhaps you can try it too. Fr. Wojtek Kuzma

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