By Mark Demott, Guest Commentary
I remember the first time I thought about becoming a priest. I was a college freshman and was drawn to the way that the Holy Cross priests and brothers lived. They loved those around them. As professors, residence hall directors, campus ministers and administrators, they had a special care for their faculty and staff colleagues - and especially for the students. Two of them lived in my residence hall. Their doors were always open, and they were available to listen when we needed to talk. They celebrated Masses across campus, heard confessions, led retreats, and helped students to prepare for the sacraments. They talked with us about our faith - and helped us to ponder our questions about God and the Church. They welcomed all of us - whether we were Catholic or not. They were men of prayer, gathering daily to pray together - for the needs of the university community, for the needs of the Church and for the needs of the world. They were shaped by their relationship with God. And, they reflected God's love to us.
They were regular guys too. Some of them played basketball with us late at night, and they joined in (and usually won) our March Madness brackets. Others were good cooks. They were interested in the arts, they liked to hike, camp and fish, they even trained for marathons. I loved hanging out with them.
As I got to know Holy Cross better, I learned that priests and brothers minister as educators in the faith in universities and in high schools, in parishes and in grade schools, and in organizations that provide direct service to those most in need. As a college student, I had the opportunity to spend a summer at AndrÃ© House of Hospitality in Phoenix, Ariz. - cooking meals and providing shelter for the homeless. As a graduate student, I became a hall director at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. And I worked side-by-side with them, I started to think that this life might really be for me.
It took me a while. I had studied biology and chemistry in college and was planning to be a doctor like my dad. I imagined that I would get married and have a family. But I was attracted to ministry as a Holy Cross priest - and I had to give it a try.
During my years in the seminary, I had the opportunity to spend time with the Holy Cross communities in Monterrey, MÃ©xico, in Haiti and in East Africa - where I taught high school in eastern Uganda. I also ministered in the United States - working in parishes, teaching high school and serving as a hospital chaplain. During these years, I continued to hear God's call to become a Holy Cross priest - and I knew that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
On Saturday, April 6, I sat in Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart with family and friends - and listened to UP freshman Sean Johnston and UP senior Claire Cummings present me to Bishop Daniel Jenky, for ordination as a priest. It was the most beautiful Mass I can remember. In his homily, Bishop Jenky reminded us that we were to model ourselves on the person of Jesus - offering ourselves in generous service to all. After promising to dedicate our lives as Holy Cross priests, we lay face down on the floor - a gesture of complete surrender to God - as the community prayed over us. Then, the bishop and all of the priests present - 114 of them (including 9 who had traveled from UP) - laid their hands on our heads, one at a time. They prayed in silence that the Holy Spirit might consecrate us in God's service. Finally, UP's Fr. Gerry Olinger helped me to put on the stole and chasuble (the symbols of the priesthood), and then Bishop Jenky anointed my hands with sacred chrism (the same holy oil that is used in baptism). As the Mass continued, we walked around the altar and took our place with our brother priests.
During my first week as a priest, I presided at Mass every day - at many different places where I have ministered during my years in the seminary. And, on that next Saturday, I was privileged to preside at my younger brother's wedding. Now, I am happy to be home - and to be able to minister as a Holy Cross priest at UP! I will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher on Sunday, April 21 at 9:00 p.m. All are welcome!
Fr. Mark DeMott, C.S.C. is the director of Shipstad Hall and also assists in Campus Ministry.