This week I was interviewed on the very cool On a Mission podcast with Molleen Dupree-Dominguez. One of her questions was, "How did you come to know you were called to be a priest?" You’ll have to wait until September when the episode drops to hear the full story, but here’s a few tidbits. When I finally learned to pray at St. Ignatius Parish—and then to discern—I started to hear the words from the Spirit bubble up from the depths of my heart: “You are my priest.” I crooked my neck and furrowed my brow every time I heard it. How can God be asking me to do something that isn’t possible?
I started engaging with the call. I couldn’t become an actual priest, so I figured the call must have meant something else. Maybe I was supposed to minister to priests. I began to offer as much support as possible to the Jesuits living near and working in the parish. This was not much of a sacrifice since I loved being around them. I especially doted on one elderly Jesuit, Fr. Tom Royce, SJ. He was in his 80s, hard of hearing, and losing his vision. Nonetheless, he was sharp as a tack and still *extremely* active, and so he needed help with all kinds of things. For example, after 50 years of saying the same rendition of the Mass, he had to learn the new translation and required someone to assist. He also needed exercise lest he become entirely hunched over, so I started taking him to the therapy pool. I’d never seen him so happy as when he was in the water. I also noticed that he loved suspenders, so I bought him a checkered pair to match his clerics. He wore them everywhere. Special times. (Thankfully, after he passed, a friend hung on to the candles from his ordination. They will be on the altar at my own ordination.)
And so it went: me hearing the call, me continuing to grapple with what it meant. I signed up for every liturgical ministry you can name: Eucharistic minister, sacristan, lector, funeral sacristan. I became a liturgical coordinator, taking on huge events that spanned days at a time. I brought communion to the sick and dying, and I started a young adult program. I was trained as a spiritual director and learned to lead retreats. I organized parish life events. Eventually, I went on to get my Master of Divinity degree, and I even ran a parish. Along the way, I prayed through joining other traditions and becoming a nun and remaining a pastoral minister. But, finally, I had to accept the fact that none of these paths were it. Twelve years later, I felt I was no longer able to grow in the way God desired. I finally let go of all my expectations about my life, about my call, about who I thought I would be. It was only then that the path unfolded before me: I was to become a female Catholic priest committed to reforming the tradition.
When I think back to my honest reaction to God's asking me to do something impossible, I just have to laugh. I was so naïve--so green! For as today’s gospel reminds us, this is what God does. God asks us to take on the impossible challenge only to reveal that it was never impossible at all. And so I lift up to to God my offering of five barley loaves and two fish.
I can’t wait to see what God does with it.
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