Father Jim: Life of priest challenging, but rewarding

Above: Father Jim blesses his parents, MaryAnn and Carmen Cesta, after his ordination on May 18, 1974.

Brendan Foley is a seminarian preparing to be a priest in the Diocese of Syracuse.

A graduate of Scranton University, he surrendered plans to be a physical therapist, and inspired by the example of clergy whose lives witness to the joys of their vocation, Brendan looks forward to sharing in the priesthood.

The vocation and calling of the Catholic priest is to make a connection between the Gospel and the ordinary lives of people struggling to be pleasing to God and being the best version of themselves.


Whether it’s in experiences of baptisms, weddings, funerals, counseling, weekend worship or just plain being with the people served, a good priest finds much gladness and satisfaction in living the vocation of being a bit of the presence of Jesus to others.

Nov. 1-7 is National Vocation Awareness Week — an annual celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.

In our diocese, Bishop Lucia has declared a Year of Vocations starting Nov. 14.

Really, the priest today, though faced with challenges unheard of years ago, tries to get to Heaven by leading others there.

The patron saint of parish priests, St. Jean Vianney, was lost looking for his parish and village assignment. The saint told a kid on the road, “You show me how to get to the town called Ars and I’ll show you how to get to Heaven.”

We must know and remember that some years ago almost every Catholic family had an uncle who was a priest or an aunt a nun. Well, those days are gone.

It used to be three or four priests served one parish. Now, sometimes one priest must serve three or four parishes. Maybe it’s the Lord’s way of pointing toward new or creative solutions for the future.

What is worth knowing is vocations for the most part flow from the blessed and sacramental marriages and families of our faithful people.

It’s rare, and almost impossible, for a person to be “called” to priesthood or consecrated religious life from a situation of couples living together without blessed marriage. We know the decrease in church vocations has expanded with the increase of marriages not happening.

Much joy and the unfolding of a great life is possible for the one who accepts a vocation to the priesthood. So many priests say they wouldn’t change it for the world.