Cocktail in hand, I walked up to a group of three of my classmates at the gathering that marked the fiftieth anniversary of our ordination as priests. As I joined these men with whom I had spent six years of my youth, one of them, Frank, asked, “Have you had heart bypass surgery?” Taken aback by the question, I answered that I had not. With a mixture of pride and resignation, he said, “The three of us have.”
Along with the fifteen other men in the dining room of the Immaculate Conception Center in Queens, New York, we four had knelt in 1959 before a now-deceased bishop, dedicating our lives to the service of the church in the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre. At the time, we couldn’t see fifty weeks ahead, let alone fifty years. We certainly never anticipated the changes in the church that would pull the rug from beneath our feet.
Although most were assigned to parishes upon ordination, a few of us were first sent to Puerto Rico to study Spanish. On our return we became “Spanish priests,” stumbling through Masses, baptisms, confessions, and weddings in that unfamiliar tongue. Whatever our assignment, we were all confident that we would serve the church as priests with humble, obedient fidelity for the remainder of our lives. Some of us did; others, like me, removed the Roman collar after a number of years and ventured into the world of marriage, parenthood, and second careers.
Of the nineteen men at our reunion, ten had remained active as...
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About the Author
William F. Powers, a retired professor of sociology, lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with Ann, his wife of thirty-nine years.