Jan/Feb 2023 Two weeks, eight funerals and lessons learned. By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of…
‘Really? You too?’
Picture on left: Childhood friends Father Colin and Father Stephen began their journey to priesthood at a youth conference.
Grateful for friendship and a shared vocation, I was sitting in a gymnasium filled with more than 3,000 high school students at a Steubenville youth conference. The final Mass of this amazing, faith-filled experience that had brought me so much closer to Christ was coming to an end.
Then I heard the priest say something that paralyzed me with fear. He invited any high school man who had ever thought about becoming a priest to come forward so that everyone in the gym could pray for them. I watched as my best friend jumped up and practically ran to the front. He was that guy in youth group who everyone knew was going to be a priest. Finally, I stood up and slowly walked forward. I was that guy who no one thought would ever become a priest. As I stood next to him at the front of the sanctuary, he just looked at me with this quizzical look, “Really, you too?!?” I just gave him a nod that translated as, “Yes, me too.”
That friend’s name is Father Colin Mulhall. He has been pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Jenison, and, this fall, he was sent by Bishop Walkowiak to study canon law, which is a great need for our diocese. I don’t think I can understate this: I am so grateful to be brother priests with someone who has been a friend since we were both 8 years old.
In many ways, it is a surprise that we became such good friends. Despite growing up in the same town and attending the same schools,
we lived very different lives. Father Colin loved to read, and I seemed allergic to books. I loved sports, and he seemed allergic to exercise.
He was smart and excelled in the classroom, whereas that was more challenging for me. Needless to say, our shared interests were few. And yet, we were friends. Why? The short answer is Jesus.
We both love to see God in our world today, and we love to help open other people’s eyes so that they too can see God acting in the world. When we can see God working in the world, we are more likely to see God working in our own lives as well.
I am forever grateful for the Lord calling both of us to this great priesthood together and that we both chose to follow his calling. Father Colin and I try to meet at least once a week. Usually on Saturdays we will have breakfast, discuss our lives, and end by discussing our weekend homilies. He has helped me tremendously over the years to clarify my points so that I can communicate them better.
As I reflect on our friendship and our shared vocation serving God’s Church as priests, I am left in awe of God. God’s providence is amazing. Here we are, two very different men from a small town: Caledonia, Michigan. God has called us both to share in this priestly life together. All I can say is, God is good.
Father Stephen Durkee is director of priestly vocations for the Dioceseof Grand Rapids.