January/2024 Keeping God’s appointments By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Father Acrea was…
A Priest’s Priest
By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Dir. Priestly Vocations
“You are going to be one beloved priest because you have the faith, prayer life, social skills, good humor and humility that attracts. I love you, too, my son and brother. Now, go convert some youth!” These words were sent to me in a text by Father Michael Becker. He was checking in on me in the spring of 2015 when I was a seminarian intern at St. Patrick Parish in Parnell. By that time, he was no longer my rector, but he still checked in from time to time. After I shared with Father Becker how life-changing and exciting the internship had been, he sent those encouraging words.
Who is Father Becker? He was the rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary from 2010 until 2021. I began seminary formation in the fall of 2010 and graduated in spring 2013, so I had the privilege of being a seminarian during Father Becker’s tenure.
One day, during my first year of seminary, I challenged Father Becker to a one-on-one basketball game. To my surprise, he accepted. The matchup drew a crowd of seminarians and a lot of excitement. Unfortunately, Father Becker ended up winning – but it was very close. Moving forward, the two of us played pickup basketball once a month. For the next three years, Father Becker became an important figure in my journey to the priesthood. He checked in on me frequently and encouraged me to grow in holiness.
Father Becker has had a profound impact on my life. He has a gift for affirming men in their vocation, telling them what they are good at, and helping them realize their worth as beloved sons of God. By his witness and inspiration, he challenged me to grow in holiness and virtue. He was constantly reminding me that if I want to be a holy priest, I must spend at least an hour every day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He was a credible witness. In every challenge he gave me, I saw him living it out. When he challenged me to work out every day, I noticed he too was running daily. When he challenged me to take my spiritual life seriously, I saw him praying constantly. When I wanted to take one too many coffee breaks from academics, I saw him pouring his life out for the seminary. When I was struggling, he was there to talk, listen and encourage. Father Becker lives what he hoped his seminarians would become: loving, joyful, hardworking and selfless priests.
Even now, as a priest of five years, I continue to emulate Father Becker. I hope that those who come in contact with me will feel loved and affirmed, and see how much Jesus wants to change their life by bringing them to his Father. I desire that everyone realizes this truth. When you realize that God the Father loves everything about you and delights in you, nothing in your life can be the same.
And this is really at the heart of priesthood. Jesus came to proclaim the Father’s love to the world. Priests, then, are called to emulate Christ. They must love with the heart of Jesus and proclaim the Father’s love to the world. Never forget that each one of us is God’s “beloved Child with whom he is well pleased.” (Mk 1:11)