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The Joys and Concerns of Vocation: Father Dave’s Early Priesthood Memories

Even when we know how God is calling us, there is often anxiety in the early days of any vocation. After Krista shares her fears as a new mother, Brett expresses similar nervousness as he pursues a Master’s degree in Social Work. Krista then asks Father Dave if he was also anxious in his early days as a priest, especially celebrating Mass for the first time. 

Father Dave notes that he was nervous to go back to a school environment at age 32 because of his previous career in media. He says, “Many years ago when I was an undergrad, I was a TV production major. I was pointing cameras at stuff, I wasn’t writing 50-page papers about philosophy and theology.” 

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However, he credits his time as a transitional deacon with easing him into the priesthood. “The deacon year is great because you’re three inches away, you’re standing right next to the priest. You’re up there on the altar, but you don’t have nearly as many lines. I would say that certainly helps you get comfortable with some of those basics.”

Father Dave recalls serving as a deacon at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. with Monsignor Kevin Irwin, one of his professors and mentors. “This is the largest Catholic Church in the western hemisphere,” he recalls. “And what we’ve been practicing on up until that point is a little chapel in the seminary, we’ve got a table, a little tiny mic, and like two pews.” He explains that he was able to work through most of his nerves in the diaconate year because of experiences like this.

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His first Mass was one day after ordination at his home parish on Long Island in New York. Father Dave explains that many newly ordained priests don’t preach the homily in their first Mass, since they want to concentrate on other aspects of the liturgy. However, he chose to do so because, “I had a lot of friends, particularly where I grew up, that are not Catholic. And I thought this might be one of the few times that they would actually get to ever hear me preach.”

After preaching the homily, Father Dave remembers all of his friends held up number cards like judges at the Olympics. “I finished my homily and sat down, and probably half the room all held up nines,” he recalls, with one friend holding a lower number as a joke. “I didn’t know they were going to do that and they surprised me. It was a beautiful moment.”

“Even 22 years later, I do still love celebrating the Mass, both the preaching and the presiding,” Father Dave says. “And from what I’ve been told, it shows.”

Photo: Father Dave’s ordination in May of 2000