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​Welcome to the website for the Office of Priestly Vocations of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI. This year twenty-five men from our diocese will be in seminary formation programs in preparation for ordination, seven of whom are new to formation. Thirteen of these men are at St. John Vianney College Seminary and twelve are at USML/Mundelein Seminary.

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Ordination - Fr. C. Epplett 2023

Fr. Christopher Epplett reflects on a year of priestly ministry

Journeying with the faithful in times of need: Father Christopher reflects on a year of priestly ministry

June 2024

By Father Christopher Epplett

I just anointed my Godfather, Gene. He is in the final stages of life and will likely die in the next few days. Anointing of the sick and funerals have become a regular occurrence in my life since being ordained a priest last June. I don’t mean to necessarily connect the two, though many times they are.

There are those I anoint before surgeries or who are going through cancer. Many are healed and certainly receive strength from the sacrament. Then there are people like Dale, whose wife called me on one of the first Saturdays after my assignment began at St. Alphonsus Parish, Grand Rapids. Marilyn, who had not yet introduced herself in person, told me her husband didn’t have much longer in hospice care.

I was able to make it to the nursing facility within 15 minutes of her call. It was my introduction to Dale and Marilyn. Days later, I had Dale’s funeral. During our meeting to plan the funeral, Marilyn told me about her husband’s infectious smile. When I saw Dale’s obituary photo, it confirmed for me that his wife had every reason to highlight a smile that is still etched in my mind when I think of her or Dale. I think of it every Saturday evening when I see Marilyn after Mass. In the first two months of my assignment, I had so many funerals that I knew the funeral home directors by their first names and funeral lunch ladies were ready to quit! But I wasn’t. Funerals have been one of the highlights of my priestly ministry. To be able to journey with a family in their mourning, experience the depths of vulnerability and pray their loved one home to our Father through the funeral Mass is a powerful privilege.

The same weekend I anointed Dale, Eugene’s wife, Barb, introduced herself after Sunday Mass. Barb asked me if I could visit Eugene sometime to anoint him and bring Communion. I decided I would go that afternoon. I ended up right back at his home two days later, praying with his family gathered around his bed in his final moments.

The stories of anointing and funerals go on and on. Those stories alone could probably fill every page of this magazine. And that’s just one thing I’ve loved about being a priest in my first year of priesthood.

The things a priest gets to uniquely do, mainly involving the sacraments, are what have fulfilled me in my vocation. In fact, it’s the reason I usually correct people who apologize for taking too much time in confession. “No, I love this. I need this. All that administration is good and necessary, but this is what rejuvenates me and keeps me going so I can do that.”

Baptisms, weddings, Mass, confession, anointing, funerals. I love what the Lord lets me do in and through my priesthood. And, though that means the difficulty of watching my godfather grow weak in his final moments, it is a blessing privilege for me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Father Christopher Epplett is canonical administrator of St. Alphonsus and Blessed Sacrament parishes in Grand Rapids. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grand Rapids in June 2023.

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