In a conversational and informative hour long interview, Dina Marie Hale led Father Tony through a detailed discussion about his vocation journey, the rewards and struggles of priestly life, plus how the laity can support their priests and how the NFPC National Convocation of Priests plays a part in that support.
Fr. Tony discussed his life in the Catholic Church during his youth, his Navy service where he also worked as a lay minister and first felt God nudging him, and his work in Nashville after the Navy where he finally accepted the call in 1998. Although he admits his journey to the priesthood included saying “No” to his vocation several times, once he made the decision to enter the seminary, he wasn’t restless or searching anymore, it “just felt right.”
He attended seminary in his home diocese, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Dina guided Fr. Tony through an interesting discussion on his time in the seminary and his discernment and development toward the priesthood, including the involvement of the Blessed Sacrament and Mary, as well as the response of his family and friends. Fr. Tony encouraged all listeners to not only pray for vocations, but to look out for young men 25 or 26 years old who seem restless and invite them to consider God’s call in their life and the possibility of the priesthood.
The talk moved into Fr. Tony’s serving as a professional consultant for St. John Vianney Center and the importance of retreats and time away for priests. Fr. Tony is often called on to give talks at priestly diocesan retreats on various topics of interest. Fr. Tony discussed how laity can help care for their priests. “First and foremost.” says Fr. Tony, “always pray for your priests, every day.” And let them know they are being prayed for, it’s very encouraging. Priestly brotherhood is vitally important, and the laity need to assure the priest that it’s okay to leave the rectory, that they will take care of the parish and he can get away to be with brother priests.
Dina asked about the NFPC National Convocation of Priests, April 24-27 in Anaheim, CA. Father Tony talked about the theme, the presenters and the practical topics designed so the priests will be able to take ideas back to their parishes. He stressed the importance of the priestly brotherhood at the Convocation and the warm welcome from priests across the country. He was excited about a new addition to this year’s convocation: a panel discussion on topics of interest to priests, to share experiences and ideas and trade information. The convocation is open to and for all Catholic priests and Fr. Tony welcomed all priests to come!
Fr. Tony closed with a prayer and a priestly blessing.