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Pre-priesthood professions

Not every priest went from the family home to the seminary to the rectory. Many pursued other careers before answering God’s call to priesthood.
 
Whether they worked in business, in government jobs, in the medical field, as a contractor or a teacher, for them, it was a major change in lifestyle and in work.
 
For example, Father Dallas St. Peter, pastor of St. Mark Church in Burlington, worked as an actuary, but after two years, he realized he “didn’t want to work behind a desk at a computer” but wanted to work more directly with people.
 
But he didn’t enter the seminary just them. He got involved in education first as a teacher’s assistant in public schools then as a teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski.
 
While he was teaching, he debated about going back to school for a teaching degree or entering the seminary. “I was ready to go back to school,” he said.
 
He chose the seminary because although he enjoyed teaching, he was drawn to the priesthood.
 
Like Father St. Peter, other priests of the Diocese discerned their call to priesthood while working. They include:
 
Father Karl Hahr
Father Karl Hahr worked for his father, the late Edward Hahr, at Hahr Construction as a contractor in New Jersey and in the St. Johnsbury area. They built houses and commercial buildings.
 
He began working in the business when he was 11 and learned about carpentry, putting in sidewalks and working with steel and concrete.
 
By the time he graduated from Lyndon Institute in 1986, he has worked is way up from laborer to skilled laborer and a few years later worked as a carpenter.
 
“I’m a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none,” said Father Hahr, pastor of All Saints Church in Richford and several other area churches. He has experience in plumbing and electrical work and can operate a crane.
 
The construction work helped to foster his vocation to the priesthood. “The crew I mostly worked with were all good Catholics which made for an atmosphere conducive and supportive of living a good Christian life,” he said.
 
He has done some roofing (which he does not like to do), put in a floor at St. Anthony Church in Sheldon and poured a new cement sidewalk at All Saints with the help of a seminarian. He has done renovations at the rectory, including construction of a chapel; sometimes his brothers (who worked with their father too) or parishioners help him. When the parish office needed a large table, Father Hahr built one; when a friend in Boston needed a tabernacle for a convent, he built one and lined it with marble, adding a carving of the Sacred Heart on the front.
 
“There is something about seeing the result that is satisfying,” he said about working with wood.
 
Through his work as a contractor and carpenter, Father Hahr learned patience and perseverance.
 
Carpentry has always been a part of his life, but though it still is, the priesthood is his focus. “I can’t take on something that takes me away from my ministry,” he said of building projects.
 
Father Chris Micale
Before his ordination, Father Christopher Micale worked in occupational therapy and mental health counseling and as administrator of recruiting for Dartmouth College football. 
 
While at Dartmouth he had a reawakening to the Catholic faith and was asked to consider the possibility of a priestly vocation by his parish priest and another parishioner. “I think I was becoming increasingly unfulfilled over the years with my work experience, and when I was confronted with this possibility, I began to see that the work I had done up to that point was in preparation for serving the Church in a more formal way,” he said.
 
He had been on his own, working and living independently, so living in a house of formation with about 70 other men, praying and sharing meals together would be quite a change. “Then returning to a rigorous academic program after being out of school for years was also quite a challenge,” he said. “This was six-year commitment, a frightening thing for someone who was entering middle age at the time.”
 
He managed the change through prayer and a strong commitment that God had asked him to do this. 
 
Now administrator of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center and St. Mary of the Assumption in Cambridge, Father Micale’s pre-seminary work required good interpersonal skills and the ability to analyze and integrate through observation of human behavior both physically and psychologically. “The positions I held over the years gave me an understanding of the emotional and physical needs of the human person, his or her development and function,” he said. “This was a perfect foundation for the spiritual work God would ask of me as a priest.”
 
Also, his office administration background was helpful in running a parish. “You start with God's vision and then through the organizational and interpersonal skills the priest can follow through on what Christ wants for His people at the local parish,” he said.  “Every parish has its own identity and its own history within the greater culture. It's a balance in which the priest must express the love of God to the parish and local community especially when difficult decisions must be made.”
 
 
Father Lance Harlow
Father Lance Harlow was a radiologic technologist (X-ray technologist) when his vocation to the priesthood emerged. “God was calling me from a profession to a vocation,” said the rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington. “Generally speaking, a profession is a work one does as a means to fulfill a greater good or lifestyle,” he said, adding that his career as an X-ray technologist was a beautiful profession, and taking care of the sick is a noble end in itself, but my life was empty outside of work.”
 
A vocation, he continued, fulfills the fundamental need a person has for meaning and purpose and appeals irrevocably to the very core of one’s nature, talents and aspirations. “As a calling from God, a vocation enables one to be fulfilled in the will of God which leads one to a recognition of something far greater than happiness; it leads one to peace.”
 
The discernment process from his profession to his vocation was the most difficult
decision he has ever made because he enjoyed my colleagues and worked hard in his profession. “I had to abandon both in an act of faith guided only by the restless search to hear God’s voice.”
 
It took a year of vocational discernment with his pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Windsor.
 
He was the first priest ordained in Vermont by Bishop Kenneth A. Angell.
 
Apart from the changes that occur with maturation over time, Father Harlow said that the most significant change in his life since my professional days has been a marked sense of “gravitas,” feeing the weight of the world. “As an X-ray technologist, I saw a lot of sickness and suffering, but it was within the controlled environment of a radiology exam room or hospital room. As a priest, I confront human suffering on a daily basis, and people look to me to take it away. That is weight.”

--Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan

Edmundite Father Michael Carter ordained

It was a joyful day of smiles, handshakes, hugs and congratulations as newly ordained Edmundite Father Michael Carter entered this new phase of his life in a spirit of hope, expectation and trust in God.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained him to the priesthood Sept. 16 at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel on the campus of St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
 
In remarks at the morning Mass, the bishop reflected on joy, noting that Pope Francis encourages all to be people of joy. “Joy is not a mater of fleeting moments of happiness…but knowing we are in God’s hands even when we are struggling,” he said, noting that the joy of Christians empowers them to do great things. “The joy of the priesthood is knowing we are configured to Christ” while serving others.
 
As a priest, Father Carter’s personal focus will be continuing to build connections with a wide array of people, believers and non-believers, Catholics and non-Catholics. “One of the great mysteries of God is God's ability to work into people's hearts even if they are rigidly opposed to spirituality and religion. I hope I can be a conduit of that journey,” he said. “In keeping with the charism of the Society of St. Edmund, my emphasis is always on those who find themselves marginalized from the Church and from God. It is in the margins that the creative power of God is most fundamentally displayed.”
 
The Society of St. Edmund – celebrating its 175th anniversary – founded St. Michael’s College.
 
In his homily at the ordination Mass, Bishop Coyne explained that though God made His entire people a royal priesthood in Christ, Jesus chose certain disciples to carry out publically, in His name and on behalf of humankind, a priestly office in the Church.
 
“Impart to everyone the Word of God which you have received with joy,” he told Father Carter. “Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe and that you practice what you teach.”
 
He asked that the holiness of the new priest’s life be a “delightful fragrance” to the faithful so that by word and example he may build up the Church.
 
During the Mass, Father Carter publically resolved to care for the Lord’s flock, to worthily and wisely preach the Gospel and teach the Catholic faith and to celebrate the sacraments faithfully and reverently for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people. He also resolved to implore God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to his care and to be united more closely every day to Christ and to consecrate himself to God for the salvation of all.
 
During the Litany of Supplication Father Carter lay prostrate in front of the altar, then, after the Laying on of Hands, Prayer of Ordination and Prayer of Consecration at the ordination, Edmundite Father David Cray, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Charlotte and St. Jude Church in Hinesburg, assisted Father Carter in his investiture with the stole and chasuble.
 
Father Carter knelt before the bishop who anointed his hands with holy Chrism. He later placed a paten and chalice in the newly ordained priest’s hands. “Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate: Model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross,” he said.
 
Born in Burlington, the son of Richard M. Carter and Kathleen M. Carter attended Christ the King School through eighth grade then Burlington High School. A member of the St. Michael's College Class of 2012, he earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in political science. He received a master of divinity degree from Boston College in 2016 and worked in the clinical pastoral education program at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
 
He chose the Edmundite priesthood because during his college years he was inspired by the sense of camaraderie and brotherhood the members of the Society of St. Edmund embodied and by the way certain members modeled for him a spirit of justice and activism that he had not encountered before. “Not to in any way downplay the tireless and faithful efforts of priests working in the parishes of the Diocese of Burlington, but for myself as an individual I never discerned that parish ministry was my primary vocation, therefore an order that had parish connection without being specifically a parochial order was intriguing to me,” he said.
 
Father Carter is currently an assistant to Edmundite Father Charles Ranges in the Essex Catholic community, teaches at St. Michael's College and assists in Edmundite Campus Ministry.
 
“Our [Edmundite] foundational ethos is a spirit of education and evangelization, particularly to those who may not otherwise hear of the love of God,” Father Carter said in an interview before his ordination. “Working in education at St. Michael's College, sometimes among a population that has never encountered the love of God, provides ample opportunity for that blessing. Needless to say, my home state of Vermont is mission territory writ large.”
 
Asked about his gifts that he brings to the priesthood, Father Carter said, “I think one is an ability (or at least a desire) to be able to connect with people on a level that makes them comfortable. That means having no preconceived notions, no judgments of any kind and no agenda when speaking with people other than to let them know that they are heard, that they are respected and that they are loved, by both myself and by God. Everything else in ministerial life stems from that.”
 
A sense of humor is also important. “I pride myself on a sense of humor. I take my work and mission seriously, but my own quirks and weaknesses allow me to laugh at myself,” he said. “A ministry without laughter is a ministry doomed to failure.”
 
To men considering the priesthood, Father Carter suggests they see the fun, humor and joy in this life as much as the difficulties and sacrifice: “There are elements of both present, but they should balance each other out.”
 
Also, he calls them to recognize that God loves each person as an individual. “Don't try to be someone or something that you are not. God makes particular demands on God's priests, but one of those demands is not to cease being a distinct and unique individual. It takes all kinds, and there is room in the priesthood for all kinds,” he said.
 
The last ordination for the Society of St. Edmund was in 2014 when Father Lino Oropeza was ordained at St. Michael's College.
 
Father Carter asked that anyone that is concerned about the state of the Church to think seriously about the men in their lives that they think may have a vocation or might make a good priest and mention it to them. “Be it for the Diocese, the Society of St. Edmund or elsewhere, actual talking and contact with people and setting an example is what makes vocations appear real,” he said. “Prayers are wonderful and beautiful, but prayer without action is robbing yourself of the most effective way that God works in the world.”
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Brother Carter to be ordained Edmundite priest

Edmundite Brother Michael R. Carter will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel on the campus of St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne will ordain him during the 11 a.m. Mass.
 
Born in Burlington, the son of Richard M. Carter and Kathleen M. Carter of Burlington attended Christ the King School there through eighth grade then Burlington High School. A member of the St. Michael's College Class of 2012, he earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in political science. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Boston College in 2016.
 
His current assignment as a transitional deacon is as an assistant to his Edmundite brother, Father Charles Ranges, pastor in Essex Junction and Essex Center. Brother Carter also teaches at St. Michael's College and assists in Edmundite Campus Ministry. He will continue in these roles after his ordination.
 
“I would also ask any and every person that is concerned about the state of the Church to seriously think about the men in their lives that they think may have a vocation (or might make a good priest) and mention it to them,” he said. “Be it for the Diocese, the Society of St. Edmund or elsewhere, actual talking and contact with people, and setting an example is what makes vocations appear real. Prayers are wonderful and beautiful, but prayer without action is robbing yourself of the most effective way that God works in the world.”
 
The Society of St. Edmund invites the faithful of the Diocese of Burlington and beyond to attend Brother Carter’s ordination.
 
The last ordination for the Society of St. Edmund was in 2014, when Father Lino Oropeza was ordained at St. Michael's College.

 
 
  • Published in Diocesan
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