28 May 2011

New priest's call shows importance of every person's role in promoting vocations

Today, at 10:30 a.m. in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, will ordain his first priest: Brian Alford.  This will be a day of great joy for the entire Diocese.

With the ordination of Father Alford to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, I will no longer be the youngest priest in the Diocese, a position which I have held since my ordination six years ago today.

Father Alford will serve as Parochial Vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham.

This week's issue of the Catholic Times has an article about today's ordination written by Michael Hoerner.  His text follows, with my emphases and comments:
Transitional Deacon Brian Alford will be ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on May 28.

He will be the first priest ordained by Bishop Paprocki. As an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago for eight years, prior to his installation as bishop of the Springfield diocese last June, he had ordained deacons, but had yet to ordain a priest.

A parishioner of Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Maryville, Deacon Alford received his theology degree from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis earlier this May.

Deacon Alford grew up in St. Jerome Parish in Troy, and attended public schools in the Triad School District. When his parents, Robert and Joyce, moved to Wisconsin in 1998, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Upon earning his bachelor’s degree in computer programming, he returned to Illinois, settled in Maryville, and worked for three years for an insurance company in Louis, and then for two years in computer consulting.

I wasn’t really very active in my faith. My consulting work took me out of town a lot, but then I found a parish where I could go to Mass before going to work. That became an important part of my life.”

Thoughts about becoming a priest “really came from suggestions from others [remember this year's message of Pope Benedict XVI: everyone has a part to play in fostering vocations],” he said. “The first person to mention it to me was my twin sister, Cindy. We were conversing on our computers, and she said, ‘I think you want to become a priest. You are going to Mass every day [it's that simple].’”

Then on Thanksgiving Day, 2005, his paternal grandmother, who wasn’t a Catholic, mentioned it to him. “She was sleeping in my old room, and told me she noticed I had a lot of books in there about the church, and asked me if I was thinking about becoming a priest [the signs are not usually very hard to see].” A short time later, a lady he had never met came up to him after Mass, and asked him, “Are you thinking about becoming a priest?”

“I had never shied away from talking about my faith, but I hadn’t given much thought to becoming a priest either,” he said. But after thinking it over he decided to attend an upcoming conference in St. Louis on vocations to the priesthood.

“I talked to Father John Titus (then vocation director for the Springfield diocese), and decided to give it a go.”

Since he had his bachelor’s degree, he needed only a year of pre-theology studies. He entered Kenrick Seminary in 2005, lived in the seminary dormitory, but attended theology classes at St. Louis University. He went on to earn his theology degree at Kenrick, graduating this May in a class of 16. The youngest in the class is 25; the oldest is in his late 40s. Deacon Alford is 32.

His sister lives in Houston, Texas, where she works in health and fitness training, and does a lot of volunteer work. He has two brothers, one four years older, and one 18 months older, who are married and live in Virginia and Florida, and has two nieces, one 7, and one 3.

“Our folks live in Indiana now. Dad, who is non-Catholic, has been extremely supportive of my decision to be a priest. He has visited me in the seminary and has grown in his understanding of the Catholic faith and what is involved in the priesthood.

“My parents and my siblings are all excited about my ordination,” he said.

Father Titus will vest Deacon Alford at his ordination. He will celebrate his first Mass at Mother of Perpetual Help Church in Maryville on Sunday, May 20, at 2:30 p.m.
Congratulations to the soon-to-be Father Alford!

1 comment:

  1. Kelly McDevitt2:09 PM

    We're looking forward to welcoming Father Alford to St. Anthony/Sacred Heart/Anunciation parishes!