Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ray of Hope: A Vocations Director and Great Priest

Ray of Hope: A Vocations Director and Great Priest

Father Tom Daly was appointed director of vocations for the archdiocese of San Francisco. Ordained in 1987, Father Daly has been a religion teacher for ten years at Marin Catholic High School.Marin Catholic High parent Pam Birdsall is delighted by Archbishop William Levada's choice for vocations director.

Birdsall, whose children went to the Catholic school, has known Daly for eight years. "Father Daly is a great priest, a breath of fresh air and very orthodox," according to Birdsall.

Chris Lyford, the family life director for the San Francisco archdiocese, agrees with Birdsall's assessment of the new vocations director. He said he knows that Daly spends "much of his free time" helping his students and their families.

"Many priests are orthodox, but few orthodox priests I know are able to articulate the Faith to 17- and 18-year-old honors theology students in the way Father Daly does; a way that brings them into the dialogue and never loses them because of his sense of humor, and never loses sight of his true appreciation for each young person the Lord sends his way" Lyford said.

"[Father Daly] didn't just hang out with the kids as an end; his objective was to bring each one a little further along in their faith walk, if not challenge them outright to work on their own conversion. He would always be eyeing possible vocations, pondering if the faith life he saw in the young men and women he worked with would someday discover an affirmative answer to the call to priesthood or religious life."

When Birdsall was asked if she was worried that the sex abuse scandal might negatively influence the new vocations director in selecting candidates to the priesthood, she said, "I don't think so. He is very hopeful. Father will be very selective."

Lyford said that the standards that Father Daly will use in judging potential candidates to the priesthood will be to discern if the men are "faith-filled, balanced, and psychologically sound. His standards are the standards of Jesus Christ, who said: 'he who wishes to follow me must deny his very self, and pick up his cross to follow after me."

The selection process will begin when Father Daly interviews a candidate. If the vocations director is interested in the aspirant, then he can request that the aspirant go through a period of parish service with the Sulpician Fathers' discernment center at St. John the Evangelist parish in San Francisco. After this process, the candidate will again be interviewed, and Archbishop Levada will make the ultimate authorization in favor of, or against, the aspirant for the seminary.

Father Daly told me that "the type of seminarians that the archdiocese is looking for are men who love God and want to model themselves after Jesus Christ, who came to serve and not be served. They must be faithful to the Church and her teachings and the celibate life. By ordination, they must accept that they belong to God and He will give them the grace to live a celibate and chaste life. They should also be men who would be credible husbands and fathers."

The new motto of the vocations office is, "You have not chosen me. I have chosen you." The Future is HopefulThe new vocations director is confident about the future of the priesthood, despite the current clerical scandals. He said we must do our part, but his hope comes from prayer and knowing that God is in control.

"I think the future is hopeful. God is in charge. What we must do is 'beg the Harvest Master'; that is, pray first. This includes families, schools and parishes" said Daly.

"Our educational institutions must teach what the Church teaches, that is, the truths of the Faith. Priests and religious must model fidelity to Christ and His Church. In addition, bishops must act like true shepherds. When this happens, we are doing our part. But God is the one who does the calling. We can never forget that."

Lyford maintains that the new vocations director views the current scandal with the eyes of faith, which see cycles of death and resurrection in the history of the Church. Lyford said that "because of a strong faith life, Father Daly has the ability to see the difference between faith and falsehood, and thus has developed a love for the Church, especially in the lives of the saints who throughout history encountered the same cycles of spiritual dryness and revival."

Daly is hopeful for a revival, but believes because of the scandal it is "important that we truly know why a man feels he should be a priest." Among questions that the vocations director said need to be answered by a candidate are: "what is it that makes him think he has a vocation? Is he hiding from something? Who are his friends? What does he do in his free time?"

Since the vast majority of sex-abuse cases among priests are homosexual in character, Lyford and Birdsall were asked what they thought the new vocations director thought about the ordination of homosexuals.

Both Lyford and Birdsall agreed that Father Daly would follow the magisterium on the question of ordination of homosexual men. Daly concurred: "regarding homosexuals in the seminary or priesthood, the archbishop and I have talked. We are waiting for the Vatican's letter on this subject. The archdiocese will be faithful to the directives from the Holy See." Marin Catholic High theology teacher Isela Madrigal said that Father Daly is completely loyal and "devoted" to the Church. She said, "his number-one priority is the youth, the Church, and winning more souls for God. Unfortunately there aren't more Father Dalys."

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