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Newly ordained priest grows in ministry

May 11, 2022

By Catherine Bracy
Contributing Writer

WATERTOWN – Ordained in October of 2021, Father Matthew “Matt” S. Conger said he continues to build on what he learned in formation as he begins his priestly ministry.

“I have learned that although seminary prepares you well for the questions that may come your way or give you the resources you need, you can look up answers,” said Father Conger, currently serving as parochial vicar for Blessed Sacrament Parish in Watertown – St. Anthony’s, St. Patrick’s and Holy Family churches. “What you think the parish life and priesthood will be like is much different. Every day is filled with a different but good challenge, and you just never know where you will be needed that day.”

Raised in Ogdensburg, Father Conger is a graduate of Ogdensburg Free Academy. He then completed his undergraduate studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before spending a couple of years studying at the Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, before completing his studies and formation at Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo.

Father Conger said he became open to following God’s call to the priesthood because of the example of his parish priest and a desire to help others.

“The thing that inspired me to become a priest was the great example that my former pastor Father Jim (Father James Shurtleff) showed me,” he said. “I always wanted to do something involving service for my community, and (Father Shurtleff’s) willingness to give to those in need and the great service he gave to all is what led me to consider becoming a priest.”

Since being ordained, Father Conger said he’s found service to be a source of grace and happiness for him, as well.

“Some of the great joys of being a priest is being there for your people in all of the good times but also in the bad times,” he said. “You get welcomed into everyone’s family. Another great joy that may seem weird is that hearing confession is a great joy to me. Being there when Christ sheds his mercy upon someone who’d just poured their heart out is something that brings me joy to know: that our Lord is a merciful Lord.”

Though his ministry has been fulfilling and joyful so far, it hasn’t been without challenges.

“Some of the challenges are learning that you are no longer in the seminary and that people now look at you more than they ever did when you were in the seminary,” Father Conger said. “It is also just that adjustment to the parish life – what it is like to live with other priests and making sure that there is a good balance in your schedule.”

Father Conger said he encourages men who are still discovering their vocations to consider the priesthood.

“Some words of encouragement that I could give to someone who is discerning a vocation is to not be afraid of asking about the priesthood,” he said. “Though if you feel that calling and think you may want to discern the priesthood, or any vocations for that matter, it is ok to try it out. Just because one enters the seminary does not mean that he will become a priest. Though what it does is forms us into becoming a better Christian, knowing that we are truly following the Lord's will for us.”


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