Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Vocational Journey: Brendan Bartlett

By Brendan Bartlett, Transitional Deacon, Diocese of Arlington

When people hear that before I entered the seminary, I was a federal agent, the reaction is usually “That’s a pretty big change!” Initially, I agreed with them, but now just before ordination - I find priesthood and law enforcement can be alike, since both are about service and self-sacrifice for a greater good.

My vision of the priesthood has been formed, primarily, by the example of the good and holy priests sustained by a serious prayer life, who showed service and self-sacrifice in abundance. We learn what it means to be “another Christ” in our theological and spiritual formation, but the practical example of those priests we meet, or whose stories we hear, provide a concrete model for sometimes abstract paradigms.

I hope I too will be a man of service, sacrifice and prayer in the years that follow. After close to eight years in formation, I am chomping at the bit to get into a parish and do those things that I have been preparing for, especially offering Mass and being a conduit of God’s mercy in the confessional. I have benefited from these two fonts of grace and long to bring them to others. Continuing to preach the Word of God is also high on my list. This Year of Faith, as a kick-off to the New Evangelization, has shown me how hungry people are for good catechesis and challenging preaching.

I have had a number of parish assignments in my home diocese, but my apostolic assignment at the United States Navy base in Naples, Italy has been a particular blessing. The base has an active American parish with a full-time chaplain. Some fellow seminarians and I head down about once a month to help with Mass, catechetics and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. We stay on base with gracious host-families who constantly impress us with their faith and dedication in their own service and sacrifice.

I can’t tell for sure what my priestly ministry will look like. I am currently in my first year of graduate studies in Canon Law. The plan is to be ordained in June and receive a parish assignment. After three years or so, I should go on to complete Canon Law studies. But, in what I consider to be one of the more exciting aspects of priesthood, anything can happen. I have promised obedience to the bishop, and I’ll serve at his pleasure, wherever that might take me.

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