The seminary rector called the members of my class in one by one on that peaceful evening. The hallways and chapel of St. Joseph's Seminary (Dunwoodie) in New York were quiet and still.
My turn came, and the rector told me that on behalf of the Archbishop of New York (John O'Connor), he was conveying to me that I had received the call to the priesthood.
For the twelve years prior to that night, I was hearing that call to priesthood on the inside. Now, I knew beyond a doubt that the call was coming from God. The Church had affirmed it. From the rector's office, I walked into the quiet, dark chapel and knelt before the tabernacle. "Now I know for sure, O Lord. I no longer have to discern my vocation. Now my focus is simply to live it faithfully."
Since then, there has not been a single day, not even a single moment, in which I have questioned or doubted my call to the sacred priesthood. Not once have I had to look back, or to the left or the right. In fact, I have told many people that they will not find a priest happier than I am in my work and vocation.
On November 12 of this year, I celebrated my 23rd anniversary of my ordination. Many good wishes, prayers, and congratulations poured into my email, Facebook and Twitter, and our Priests for Life headquarters.
As I observed this anniversary, surrounded by the joyful love of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, a charismatic, Franciscan community of Sisters here in Prayer Town, TX (www.dljc.org), I thought often of the mosaic over the back door of my home parish. Seeing it had drawn me towards the priesthood, because it shows the Lord giving the Eucharist, with the words, "He who eats this bread will live forever."
I thought of Cardinal O'Connor, who ordained me, and taught me how to be both a priest and a pro-life leader. I thought of my friend Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, who vested me at my ordination ceremony.
Priesthood is indeed a vocation to give life, and in my case, to be spent in the defense of the most defenseless lives of all, the unborn.
I make it a practice to pray each day for those to whom I have ministered in the past -- all those whom I have baptized, absolved, anointed, married, confirmed and blessed, all those to whom I have preached, for whom I have offered mass, to whom I have given communion, and whom I have buried, in the sure hope of the resurrection. I also pray each day for those whom God knows, in his Providence, that I will minister to in the future. It's a beautiful practice that I recommend to priests and deacons; it wraps up our entire life of ministry in one movement of prayer and praise.
Thank you, everyone, for helping all of us who are ordained to remain faithful and joyful in our ministry!