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Meet Vermont's newest priest

Father Joseph Sanderson meets some students from Christ the King School in Burlington after his June ordination. He is parochial vicar of Christ the King/St. Anthony Parish there. (Vermont Catholic photo/Cori Urban) Father Joseph Sanderson meets some students from Christ the King School in Burlington after his June ordination. He is parochial vicar of Christ the King/St. Anthony Parish there.
Father Joseph J. Sanderson grew up in Orwell, two houses down the hill from St. Paul Church. The church was open throughout the day and into the early evening hours, so after long bus rides home from Fair Haven Union High School and cross country practice, he would go up to the church before dinner and homework.
At first his visits were brief – maybe five minutes – but over time those visits lengthened. The parish also had Eucharistic adoration on First Fridays that helped him to encounter Christ on a deeper level.
It was during these quiet times of prayer at his parish church that he first heard the call to the priesthood.
Father Sanderson was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Burlington on June 17 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
Born in Middlebury on Sept. 18, 1990, he is the eldest of the three children of Jennifer and John Sanderson. “Reciting the rosary together as a family played the biggest role in my journey to the priesthood,” he commented.
During high school, he worked at the bottle redemption center in Orwell, a job he enjoyed. “I can't help it, its corny, but now my work will be of another sort of ‘redemption,’” he quipped.
As a priest, he hopes that as Christ's instrument, he can bring others to Chris, “that they may experience His deep, abiding, eternal love for them, and in return that they may love Him,” he said. “To be loved by God and to love God in return is our destiny and gives us purpose and ultimate fulfillment.”
Father Sanderson entered the seminary after his graduation from high school, having given only slight consideration to a career working for Lego, maker of the toy building bricks he collects.
“Christ was the center of my life,” he said. “Through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation, I received Christ's peace, joy and mercy. Once I had encountered Christ, I had a burning desire to share Him not only with those closest to me but with everyone.”
Father Sanderson attended Our Lady of Providence Seminary and Providence College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He is finishing his major seminary training at St. John's Seminary in Boston.
During summer breaks, he helped with the Totus Tuus summer program for children in Vermont, served in the Bishop’s Fund office and assisted at parishes in Williston, Richmond, South Burlington and Highgate Center.
A man who enjoys helping people and making them laugh, Father Sanderson is especially close to St. Therese of Lisieux and St. John the Baptist. “John was quite the character and brought many to Jesus through his voice and humility,” Father Sanderson said. "’I must decrease you must increase’ is a prayer I often say during Mass.”
St. Therese has shown him how easy it is to give back to God. “Love Him by giving Him everything, the small things, the everyday things. Any act we do can be an act of love,” he commented.
In addition to his Lego hobby, he enjoys biking, hiking cross-country skiing and going to the movies.
Father Sanderson tries to emulate the example of goodness and faith his parents have given him and the good example of the priests of the Diocese of Burlington.
His advice to those discerning a vocation to the priesthood is to find some quiet time to be with the Lord, to hear His voice. “Be patient with Christ. Find a priest to talk to and ask questions,” he said. “Finally, step out of the boat, as Peter did. Seminary is a time to discover who you are and how Christ may be calling you to love Him and His people.”
After his ordination to the priesthood, he looks most forward to celebrating Mass and hearing confessions.
“I chose to be a priest for the Diocese of Burlington because Vermont has always been and will always be my home,” Father Sanderson said. “It will be a great honor, privilege and joy for me to serve the people of this great State of Vermont, to labor for souls in this little corner of our Lord's vineyard.”
Originally published in the July 1, 2017, The Inland Sea.
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