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Father Muench Says...

Priesthood has been full of surprises

May 22, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Recently, I drove to Burlington, Vermont, to attend the graduation of my great-nephew, Will Muench, from Champlain College. Will is the nephew that I have told you about before. I know you have heard the story. His parents, my nephew and his wife, Paul and Susan, invited me to accompany them at the time of his birth, now over 20 years ago. I truly consider that day the most exciting day of my life.

The drive over to the graduation and back home was long and tiring. However, that drive proved to be a rather happy experience for me. The drive was close to a complete circuit around the Diocese of Ogdensburg, my diocese. It was a ride filled with memories and prayers. Each road, each place was filled with memories of times I remember well – places where I spent time, places where I lived, places where I served as a priest. Each place reminded me of a priest I had known well – a former pastor or other priests I had worked with.

Today, I would like to share thoughts about my time as a priest. My life and my priesthood have been a series of surprises. In faith, I believe that they were surprises placed in my life by the Lord. I have no doubt that Jesus sent various surprises into my young life that aimed me toward the priesthood. In those days, it was Thomas Merton. He was the Trappist monk who was also a popular author. I remember well writing my senior theme on the Trappist Monks, finding so much information and inspiration from the writings of Thomas Merton. I also remember talking my father into driving me out to visit the Trappist Monastery in Piffard, New York. I remember a talk I had that day with the Brother Porter. I confess: I even thought of becoming a monk.

This experience did lead me to consider becoming a parish priest, and I was ordained to the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Over the years, the surprises continued through the many and varied assignments in which I have served. I can honestly tell you that each and every assignment was a happy experience for me. I remember them all well, each an unexpected surprise.

I was surprised by the numerous families that I became part of as a priest and pastor. Each was a gift from God. Each family taught me a great deal about what it means to be a priest and pastor. I discovered so much that could not be learned in the seminary. Sacred Scripture taught me a great deal about God’s love. Through these families, I experienced that love.

Let me add here another surprise that entered my life as a priest. I learned to weep. Yes, truly I had to learn how to cry. I was not one to cry as a youngster, even as a young priest. I guess I thought I could deal better with difficult situation, with the calamities I was called to as a priest, if I could stay “strong.” The surprise was that over the years I discovered that there were times when I would be a better priest if I allowed myself the opportunity to stop for a time and cry. Such moments definitely gave me time to draw closer to the Lord.

The biggest and most important surprise of my priesthood has been the sacred moments I have experienced through the Blessed Eucharist. Celebrating Mass is always the greatest happiness for me. I am certain that I join all priest in my appreciation and gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist. Each time I celebrate Mass, whether with a full Church or just two or three people, I continue to find peace and joy and God’s blessed love. Something special touches me each time I say the prayers, each time I am allowed to consecrate the bread and wine, each time I receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.

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