April 15, 2015

"Try Before You Buy" - The Parish Internship

“Can I really do this for the rest of my life?” While you never know unless you try, the one year parish internship of a seminarian is among the best indicators if priesthood is for you. It is during this 12-month period that the young man gets the opportunity to live the life of a priest while being mentored by a senior pastor.

Over the year, the seminarian intern lives at the parish with the pastor and takes part in the everyday activities and work of a priest. While I was not able to celebrate the Mass, hear confessions, or anoint the sick, my year in the French-speaking Ottawa parish was very rich with powerful experiences of witnessing God’s grace at work in the world.

VISITING
Today’s priest is a traveler. He spends a lot of his time visiting people. During my internship, I found myself often engaged in going out for such visits. Preparing children for sacraments and answering their questions in the classroom take up a lot of time especially if the parish is responsible for several schools. Visiting the elderly in retirement homes is such a rewarding experience also since many are alone in life and family only comes to visit them on evenings or weekends. I found that discussing what marriage means to young couples as they prepare for a life together was also a very special. Visiting the sick, the suffering and the dying in hospitals is a growing ministry and often a sacred moment when people want to discuss their faith or pray with a priest.

LISTENING
During my internship I realized how important it is to be a good listener during these visits. People come to the priest because they want God to be a part of their lives. While some people seek information about the faith, many more seek to be transformed by God’s loving presence. The priest’s attentive ear is often seen as a direct channel to God the Father’s ear. People share their experiences and emotions in times of suffering, despair, and confusion, or in times of great joy, celebration, and happiness.

TEACHING
In these personal encounters with people often there are moments where someone wants to know what the Church teaches on a particular subject or they seek the advice of a priest. At Mass too, the priest serves as teacher of the faith and interpreter of the sacred scripture in his homilies so that people may grow in their understanding of and love for God. During my internship I enjoyed sharing what I had learned through my years in the seminary. I also realized that I still had a lot to learn when I returned for two more years of study.

PRAYING
Being faithful to prayer is probably the most important part of a priest’s day. It is in celebrating Mass each day that we make Christ present in the Eucharist to the people we are called to serve. At Mass and in our personal prayer time the priest brings the needs of the people to God. Reading and meditating on the life of Jesus in the scriptures helps align the priest to Christ, this way; the priest will bring Jesus into each conversation and meeting with the people.

My year on internship gave me insight into the life of a priest today. Such a life is one that is lived very close to God and thus makes Him present to the world in each encounter and conversation. After the year in the parish, I was able to say with confidence that this is the life for me.

Answering the Call