There have been three priests who had significant influences in my life; a Pope, the founder of a religious order, and a friend.
The first was St. John Paul II. I did not know him personally. But, the courage and charisma that he showed on the world stage inspired me. He seemed bigger than life, the very embodiment of what the Church could be if the world would just give faith a chance. As a young seminarian lost in a sea of people at World Youth Day Denver, he made the mission seem possible.
I know the second priest better, although not as personally as some. He is, of course, Fr Bob Bedard. He had a way with words and a dry wit that I have sought to emulate in my own ministry. What’s more, he cast a vision of how to practically live out the new evangelization that St. JP II spoke. That we, the Companions of the Cross, could evangelize together with the Holy Spirit as guide.
“‘Work in progress! Not ready, Lord, but willing.’ These sayings are what he left us and they are why I live the life I have.”
They are both dead now. May they rest in peace, and may their good deeds go with them.
By the time you read this the third, Fr. Jim McGillivray may have joined them. I knew Fr. Jim personally, as a parish priest, High School Chaplin and as a friend for the better part of the last 40 years. He was the first person that I ever spoke to about my vocation. And, in many ways, he is the reason I ever even asked the question. If St. JP II gave us the mission and Bob set up the frame work to live it out, Fr. Jim was the one who proved for me the why, the motivation to serve.
He modelled a priesthood that was livable, human, and filled with joy. Yes, he could be cranky and cross grained, eccentric and stiff necked. But he always, always, had time for me and wanted only the best for my life and my ministry. It is a little hard to imagine the church or my priesthood without Jim, and the gift of my faith tells me that even at his passing, I will not have to try.
Now it is on us who remain to continue their legacy. May we who have been given much always have as much to give! Amen!