The Gift of the Priest


Photo copyright 2015 – Gina Switzer, artist. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Recently I received the news of the untimely death of a priest who was a teacher and dean of students at my high school. It was both shocking and sad to lose someone who touched so many lives, especially those of his students. He was one of those priests who really could connect with teenagers. In a time when we were questioning the faith of our parents, he was able to connect with us through his daily interaction teaching and also with his homilies at Mass. He sported a ponytail and black leather fingerless gloves, yet brought the gospel message to us in a relatable way. Even though I’m celebrating my 20-year reunion from high school this year, I can still remember a homily where he asked us if we thought it was harder to be a Christian today or back in the first century with the apostles–then he busted out with Motley Crüe’s “Same Old Situation.”

It wasn’t just his homilies or his teachings that made him well liked, but how he really took the time to get to know each of the students and always was doing kind things for them. I will always remember one specific time he really touched my life. I was a freshman in college, away for the first time, and Fr. Joe heard how homesick I was and took the time to call me and see how I was doing. Those were the days before email and cell phones, and it was actually a long-distance phone call, so I didn’t get very many of those! I can still remember hanging up the old corded phone and crying with tears of joy that he cared so much to take time out of his busy schedule to remember me.

Reading the homily from his funeral Mass given by Deacon Tom Jewell brought tears to my eyes, but also an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the gift of the priesthood. In his homily, the deacon recounted Fr. Joe’s life legacy with his own words “I do the one thing I can do and that is to offer sacrifice….Because I am a priest…and that’s what a priest does…he offers sacrifice.”

Sacrifice…that is the essence of the priesthood. I also have seen through the example of Fr. Joe and so many priests that have touched my life, they not only offer sacrifice, but live a life of sacrifice. As I reflected on this homily, I began to think of how many hundreds of priests I have been blessed to know over my lifetime, and how they have influenced my faith life. There are the priests who baptized me, heard my first confession and gave me my first Communion, the priests who were my pastors and associate pastors, the priests (who like Fr. Joe) were my teachers and principals, the priest that witnessed our marriage, the priests I worked with at the hospitals, the many priests I have attended their daily and Sunday Masses, the priests who I have met with my volunteer work through the church and most importantly, the friends I went to college with who became priests and like a part of our family. All of them have given up a life of luxury to offer sacrifice on my behalf. It is a gift I have come to appreciate more and more as I see how these amazing priests who have touched my life have brought me closer to God. Thank you Lord, for the gift of priests!

Do you have a priest who has touched your life? Share with us here and as you do, offer a prayer for him.

Copyright 2015 Michele Faehnle
Art copyright 2015 – Gina Switzer, artist. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


About Author

Michele Faehnle is a mother of 4 from Columbus, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse for 11 years. She now enjoys volunteering for the church and is the co-chair of the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference. She is the co-author of Divine Mercy For Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina through Ave Maria Press. She blogs at, and


  1. Michelle Biagi on

    I agree, Michele. I have been inspired and taught by so many wonderful priests, including Fr Lavelle, Fr James Black, Fr Mike Gentry, Fr John Riccardo, Fr Stash Dailey, and Fr Michael Gaitley. I could listen to them preach forever. May God bless them and all their works.

  2. Fr. Jonathan Wilson, my brother, my pastor, Father Michealary Dosh, and the deceased Rev. Kenneth Grimes the pastor who baptised me as a child. God bless all priests.

  3. Veronica Cogwin on

    Without the sacrificial love of Bishop Mike Sis (Diocese of San Angelo, TX) and Fr. David Konderla (pastor of St. Mary’s, College Station, TX) I would not be the same person today. God bless all these holy men!

  4. Many priests have influenced my spiritual walk starting with Father Cotton, Father Shawn Corcoran, Father Michael Watson, Father Michael Gaitley and Bishop Frederick Campbell. Blessings and prayers to our holy priests who guide and lead their flock.

  5. Mary Kate Sparrow on

    Thanksgiving and prayers for the most inspirational Priest/person I have ever met, Fr. John Cregan in Alexandria, VA.

  6. I agree that Fr. Joe had an amazing gift in connecting with high school students. Not only did he touch my heart with kindness and caring personally, but he truly inspired me when I consistently saw him befriend and interact with the most unlikely students to be hanging out with a priest!

    I am also inspired by Fr. Peter King, who has become a great friend over the years despite distance, and although not a priest just yet, Br. Joseph Marie Krilich:)

  7. Fr. Bill Maroon, deceased, was the priest who finally tipped the scales and got me to join the Catholic Church. Fr. Patrick Toner has been a wonderful teacher and the best boss I’ve ever had. Thanks to all the priests that heard the call and said “yes!”

  8. Rev. Boulos Saleh, St, Edward the Confessor, Toronto, Ontario. We moved there for one year for my husbands work. Fr. Saleh met us in the vestibule the fist Sunday we were there and greeted my husband with a hand shake;not letting go of his hand he told him he would see him next Thursday at the church for classes to become Catholic. My husband said he would see him there. We had been married 17 years and he went with me to Masses every Sunday. 1 minute with Fr. Saleh and he was ready to profess his faith. We are now on our journey together; Thank you Fr. Saleh.

  9. There are so many priests who have helped me along the way. Here are a few:
    Fr. John Kalicky, C.PP.S, our former pastor, now retired, always encouraged me with his words, a listening ear, kindness and compassion. He witnessed our marriage, baptized our daughter, and gave our girls their First Holy Communion.
    Fr. Leon Flaherty, C.PP.S., a gentle soul. He sings with his whole heart and gives great homilies.
    The late Fr. Slavko Barbaric, OFM – what a beautiful soul and so faithful to Our Lord and Our Lady. He led Adoration on Holy Thursday in Medjugorje, 1993. It touched my heart so much, I still remember it. Fr. Svet, OFM in Medjugorje also had a positive influence by his quiet, peaceful countenance.
    Fr. Kevin Scalf, C.PP.S. was our associate pastor for three years, and now works full-time in the academic arena. He isn’t afraid of speaking the truth. His homilies are so interesting and well-thought-out. My husband jokes with him that he has never fallen asleep during one of his homilies! Fr. Kevin has a silly side and enjoys a good sense of humor.
    Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, is a wonderful priest, and so down-to-earth and approachable. His books and videos have helped me a lot in my prayer life.
    Fr. Darragh Connolly, chaplain of Direction For Our Times “Rescue Mission for Souls,” the Apostolate of Jesus Christ, the Returning King. He tells good stories from his life experience as a priest in Ireland.

  10. Father Joseph Nisari has had a major impact on our lives and family. He loves God so much and that overflows into love for all, especially children and every one of my 4 young children adore him! He has sadly been moved from our parish, but we still feel the impact he’s made on our lives.

  11. Stacey Persichetti on

    First, my brother, Fr. John Gannon has had a tremendous influence on me. Having the blessing of a priest in the family is huge. Two of my children have received their first communion from their uncle. My brother is a quiet, constant reminder of the Person of Christ. My high school chaplain, Fr. Peter, first instilled a true love for my faith. And lastly, Fr. Thomas Berg, helped me with ethical challenges I have encountered as an adult. Truly blessed by the gift of these priests and others.

  12. Deanna Oppenheimer on

    My brother, Fr. Joseph Brickner, is a constant reminder to our family and our children about the joy and adventure of the priesthood. All his nieces and nephews adore him and see the true joy he has that comes only from devotion and service to Christ and His church. I have too many to name, but others that have provided council or I have enjoyed working with include Fr. Watson, Fr. Buffer, Monsignor Missimi and Fr. Herbert. I am so grateful for the priests I have know in my life thus far, and I pray every day for all the awesome young men who are studying to be priests today!

  13. Mindy Celentano on

    What a beautiful article! So many priests have left their mark on my heart, but I’m partial to my brother-in-law, Fr. Christopher Celentano in the diocese of Syracuse. He’s been tasked with merging 3 parishes into one and building a new church…. all on his own with no other pastors or associates assigned. He has worked tirelessly for years to overhaul and rebuild these parishes and he’s amazing. God Bless our clergy!

  14. Brenda Lombardi on

    Thank you for sharing Michelle! You’ve got me thinking and praising God for Fr. Regis Rhoda, a very special priest I grew up with who made a huge impact in my life spiritually. He was a close friend of our family and was in charge of the charismatic renewal group in Syracuse, NY. As a teenager my mom and I would attend his Wednesday evening Charismatic Masses and that’s where my true love for the Holy Spirit manifested. Fr Regis married Matt and I and presided at my mom’s funeral along with giving her eulogy. He has since passed and I am grateful to rely on his holy intercession. Thank you for reminding me of the blessing he and still IS to me and our family.

  15. There are so many who inspire and challenge those in each parish. I will focus on one. Sadly, the priest who made the greatest imprint passed – Fr. Arter. Thankfully, though, there were many years where his teachings would help mold me into the person I am. He guided me through my school days through confirmation and up through my sister’s much later. He had such a genuine interest in all our lives and connected in a way with both my family and my friends that truly made an impact on my life. I was very sad he could not be the one to marry my husband and me as I know he would have enjoyed Pre-Cana, as would have we 🙂

  16. Thank you, Michele, for this article as it reminded me of the gift of our priests and specifically all of those that have touched my life. I praise the Lord for Fr. Ed, my parish priest when I was younger who was killed in a car accident when he was in his 40’s. He had a special impact on me and was a great model of sacrifice. I am also thankful for Fr. Dan Pattee, Fr. Phil Smith, Fr. Dan Ochs, Fr. Simone, Fr. Hawk, Fr. Bob at St. Brendan, Fr. Dury, and so many others. Praise the Lord for His faithful servants!

  17. Michele, great story on our priests and as you said they truly live a life of sacrifice. In our life I’d like to thank and praise God for Fathers Joe Grbes, Paul Cullen, John Ahern, Peter Mary Rookey, Jozo Zovko, Zlatko Sudac, Joseph Epko, George Luznicky, and Jesus Christ, the first priest. In addition I’d like to thank Brother Joseph Marie Krilich for having the courage to say “Yes” to the Lord! Way to go, Joe!

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