December 2023 My No. 1 discernment tip. By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations…
Keeping God’s appointments
By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations
Father Acrea was a priest on the faculty at Saint John Vianney College Seminary when I was a seminarian. One of the oldest priests on staff at the time, he was seen by many of the seminarians like a grandpa. One day, he gave a homily that has stuck with me. “Gentlemen,” he said, “God made appointments for me. These appointments were with individuals that God planned for me to meet and minister to so that he could love them through a difficult time.” He ended his homily by encouraging us, “Many of you will become priests, and God already has appointments for you. These are individuals God intends for you to meet at a specific day and time. I encourage you men, to keep those appointments.”
He was so right. Looking back at my time as a priest so far, I know without a doubt that there have been more than a few appointments ordained by God. Never was this truer than when I arrived at St. Pius X Parish. I remember calling my mom to tell her that I would be moving to St. Pius X. She was very excited because it was “Rem’s parish.” “Rem” was Mr. Kevin Remenap. My mom knew him because they’d worked together at Caledonia High School. I knew him because he was my high school chemistry teacher.
We reconnected right away. Mr. Remenap was a big Detroit Lions fan, and unsurprising to many of you, so am I. Around the holidays that year, Rem gave me a big hug, and said, “We are glad you are here. I’m so proud of you. Love you man.”
A few months later Mr. Remenap and his family went to Florida for spring break. On that trip, sadly, he passed away unexpectedly. His death was among the hardest losses I’ve experienced. Mr. Remenap was a young father with three school-aged children, and a wonderful wife, Molly. In an instant, their lives changed dramatically.
Mr. Remenap was a beloved teacher, mentor, and an affirming man. He regularly told his students he loved them, and they knew it. He helped them believe in themselves, but more importantly, he inspired them to be a force for good in this world.
I admit that I was overwhelmed and a little stressed about his funeral Mass. Not only did I love Mr. Remenap, but my worlds were colliding. Generations of Mr. Remenap’ s family have been members of St. Pius and so many people from my hometown were going attend this funeral. This was not going to be a small funeral. Those who knew me as “little Durkee” were now relying on me for words of comfort in a time of great loss and sadness. The nerves were understandable for any priest; but in this moment, I was not just the priest, I was grieving too.
Then, I remembered Father Acrea’s words. I remembered the appointments that God makes for us. There will be people for whom God needs us to be his instruments of love, compassion, and support during a difficult time. Rem’s family didn’t need a priest to share platitudes about death, grief, and hope; they needed a priest whose heart was broken and grieving just like theirs.
This was an appointment scheduled by God, and I know he healed many hearts that day. When I see our seminarians, I am filled with hope. Here are men that God will use to keep his appointments, to love his people in their greatest time of need.