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Archives Priest: ‘God has far exceeded my expectations’

April 10, 2019

By Darcy Fargo

MASSENA – “A lot of guys will say they knew from the time they were a little boy that they wanted to be a priest,” said Father Scott A. Belina, parochial vicar at St. Peter’s Parish in Massena. “That’s not my story.”Belina
Father Belina, 34, was studying biomolecular science at Clarkson University, when he started to develop his faith.

“I guess I had a few thoughts of it early on, but nothing I took seriously,” he said. “But when I was in college, I really started to take the thought seriously. I thought maybe, just maybe God was calling me to be a priest.”
In his second year of college, he shared the idea with a diocesan priest.

“I started spiritual direction, and I was learning to pray and going to Mass,” Father Belina said. “The idea became stronger and stronger.”

Then, in 2005, he had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Germany.

“This was the summer after Pope John Paul II had died, and he had been pope since I began to exist,” Father Belina said. “Pope Benedict XVI had been elected, and he was at World Youth Day. As part of the event, they had an all-night vigil. When Pope Benedict got there, this sea of people just went crazy. I was my first real sense of the universality of the church; I got the sense that there are other people who care about this. This is real. It just kind of stuck with me after that.”

That same summer, he had the opportunity to spend time in Georgia for a research project related to his academic coursework. There, he met a dynamic priest who spoke of his vocation with joy and love.

“He’d pick up a Bible while he was preaching, and he really knew what to say,” Father Belina said. “He knew how much he needed Christ and that his vocation was a gift. I took what he said to heart.”

While he continued to discern and pray through college, Father Belina said he reached the latter part of his senior year still unsure where he was called to go.

“I decided I wasn’t going to have certainty,” he said. “I had a couple graduate school opportunities, but I couldn’t commit to those without discerning first. I decided to apply to seminary. I figured if the diocese accepted me, I’d take it as a sign.”

He entered seminary in the fall. There, he enjoyed the academic experiences, prayer time, spiritual direction and comradery with other seminarians and priests.

“I had a lot of awesome experiences that really made me sense that pull toward that vocation,” Father Belina said. “Like any vocation, it was and continues to be a leap of faith. I was never 100 percent sure I was going in the right direction, but all the signs pointed that way, so I had to trust that God was and is the one that’s in the lead.”

Father Belina was ordained by Bishop Terry R. LaValley on May 25, 2013 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“There were challenges in the seminary, and there are challenges in priesthood,” he said. “It’s a relationship of trust with the Lord. It’s a journey of faith. I’ve had many awesome experiences – being able to celebrate sacraments, preach, spend time with people when dying and meeting new people.”

Like that priest in Georgia, Father Belina sees his priesthood as a gift.

“When I was discerning, one of the things I looked forward to was celebrating Mass and hearing confessions,” he said. “When you’re in seminary, you think you know what that is. When you actually do it, you begin to see the gift you’ve been given. God has far exceeded my expectations of what this vocation would be and what it would mean for myself and for others.”

Father Belina said some of the best moments of his priesthood included giving his father the anointing of the sick prior to major surgery and presiding at his brother’s wedding. He also sees profound grace in being with people as they’re dying or preparing to die.

“It’s the time they leave this world, and it’s incredible to give them the sacraments and be an instrument of reconciliation before they go to meet God,” he said. “I’m not giving them anything I have of myself. I’m giving them what has been given to me.”

For those discerning their vocation, Father Belina suggested starting with prayer.

“Pray, and I don’t mean just say an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be,” he said. “Make the space and time for God to speak to you. He’s always speaking to us. Let’s face it, we have iPhones, computers, tablets, homework, jobs and all of the other thousand things we try to do. Just as we would make space and time for something else we want to do, we make choices to make time for it, we need to do that for God. Discerning or not, make time for quiet, make time for God. Ask him what it is he wants you to do.”

For those feeling called to priesthood or religious life, Father Belina also suggested talking to your parish priest.
“Tell him you think you might have this vocation or ask him his vocation story,” he said.

Lastly, “don’t be afraid,” Father Belina said.

“Don’t be afraid to pray and don’t be afraid to consider it,” he said. “Sometimes, we’re afraid to open the door even a little bit for fear it might be true. God has given me far, far beyond what I ever considered He would.”

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