Formation program bears unexpected fruit

(On Sunday, Nov. 1, seminarian Nick Adam gave the following talk at the Msgr. Glynn Seminarian Brunch at Jackson St. Richard Parish. He spoke about his experience at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha this past summer. He graciously agreed to let us publish it.)
I am about to start my fourth year studying to be a priest in the Diocese of Jackson. I may not sound like I am from Mississippi – I’m not – but I worked in the state for five years as a TV news anchor and I very much feel called to serve the church in the deep south.
Last January, my mother died after battling cancer for nearly 10 years.
I spent about a week sitting by my mother’s bed with the rest of my family as she lost the ability to speak, then lost the ability to eat, then went on home hospice, then lost the ability to drink, then she was unresponsive, and before dawn on Jan. 22, 2014, she was gone.
I was able to help organize the funeral, I went to the funeral, I cried at the funeral, and I have prayed for my mom. That was pretty much the extent of my grieving, until I attended the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF).
While I was praying at IPF during our scheduled silent retreat, I found myself revisiting that week with my mom. I remembered how I would sit with her late into the night praying beside her, sometimes she would even respond to the prayers. I remembered how we were able to talk one last time, and toward the end I would just talk and tell her what was happening in my life. I also experienced feelings of restlessness, this worry that I did not say everything I should have said during that week, and a sadness that I was not the best son, especially after mom got sick and needed to be taken care of.
On one day during the retreat, I was praying with scripture and in my mind’s eye I found myself back in my mom’s room. I remembered the pain that I felt as I watched her fade, but in my prayer she was able to hold me close to her heart and comfort me as she had done so many times in my life. In my prayer Mary was in the room, and she offered me support and assured me that my mom knew her well.  Jesus was in the room too, standing next to me in sorrow and support, and I even had the sense of the love of God the Father, present in the room and in my heart.
This was not a replay or dramatization of a memory, but it was a re-experience. I experienced the healing power of God on that day. God revealed to me the love that he has for me, and for my mother, and all those nagging fears and regrets about how I should have done this or that, they simply didn’t seem important. In prayer the Lord entered a wound and healed it, I am now able to look upon the death-bed of my mother and see the loving presence of God there.
In God’s providence this experience of prayer almost immediately bore fruit in my ministry. As a part of the program I found myself one day visiting a dying man in hospice care here in Omaha. He was unconscious on a morphine drip, and his wife was in the room. Without even thinking about it, I was able to walk over to this dying man, and take his hand. Then I reached out and held the hand of his wife, and led a prayer. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t embarrassed, I just wanted to offer God’s love to these people, and I believe that we all experienced God’s presence in that room just as I realized that God was with my mom and my family all those months ago.
We all have our share of tragedy, and as faithful Catholics I know how much you depend on your priests to give you faith and hope during times of trial. In these moments what kind of priest do you want to show up? Good priests, unfortunately, don’t grow on trees, and the men in the seminary with me have stories much like my own, just like all of us they have pasts that need healing, and if they don’t get healed in the seminary, then instead of getting a spiritual physician at your door, you may get a wounded man who has not allowed God’s healing love into his life and therefore can’t bring it into your life.
What kind of priest do you want? This is important because there is a choice here. IPF has given me great confidence that one day I will be the type of priest that the church deserves, the type of priest that each of you deserves.
So I thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. I believe in IPF, the men that come here leave forever changed, they become beacons of God’s love and a source of great comfort to all that they encounter. That’s what God asks us to do as priests, and that is what we learn to do here, good priests don’t grow on trees, but they do grow at IPF.
(It’s not too late to support the Seminarian Education Fund. Contact Aad de lange at aad.delange@jackson or Father Matthew Simmons at for information on how you can help secure a match for your donation.)