July 10, 2024 at 9:44 a.m.

THE FIRSTS OF A NEW PRIEST

REFLECTIONS OF A NEW PRIEST: Experiencing ‘the amazement of what the ministry entails’
Newly ordained priest Thomas Fallati, center, is welcomed into the priesthood during the Ordination of Priests on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, N.Y.  Cindy Schultz for The Evangelist
Newly ordained priest Thomas Fallati, center, is welcomed into the priesthood during the Ordination of Priests on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, N.Y. Cindy Schultz for The Evangelist (Courtesy photo of CINDY SCHULTZ)

By By Father Tom Fallati | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

On May 18 my seminarian journey came to its completion, as I professed the promises of priestly ministry, and Bishop Scharfenberger laid his hands on me and anointed my own hands with sacred chrism oil. 

The Ordination Mass will always stand out for me as a moment of great joy. I felt a sense of surrender to the priestly ministry to which I was being ordained, and immense joy as my now brother priests laid hands on me and welcomed me to the priesthood.

I then had the privilege of two first Masses, one at my home parish of St. Pius X and then another at St. Kateri Tekakwitha. The outpouring of well wishes from parishioners and friends was truly moving and humbling.

Then, with the celebrations completed, it was time officially to start the work of being a parish priest.    

A NEW START

I have been assigned to St. Kateri, where I served as a deacon on a pastoral year from last fall through ordination. As a “parochial vicar,” I act as the associate to the pastor, Father Bob Longobucco. 

This calls to mind my starting out at 25 years old as a first-year associate in New York, heading to the law firm’s library to dig into the first research question I had received. In those early days especially, as the most junior attorney on what were typically teams of more senior associates and one or more partners, I poignantly understood my newness to the profession. Everything I wrote was closely reviewed and edited. It would take years of gradually increasing experience and seniority to move toward the role of the senior lawyer on a case.

Twenty-nine years later, I am a novice again. I am working my way through a series of “firsts” in priestly ministry.

Being a novice means being reminded that I am truly an “earthen vessel” (2 Cor. 4:7). Like when at my first St. Kateri Mass, as I was waiting for our deacon to begin to recite the petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful, Father Bob had to lean over and gently whisper, “You need to say the opening prayer.”  

And yet as I learn my way in priestly ministry, I have experienced the amazement of what the ministry entails. As a new lawyer, I focused on analyzing questions and developing persuasive arguments. 

Now as a priest, I witness to the ways that the Lord acts in the lives of those I encounter. Hearing confessions has opened for me a still deeper appreciation for the amazing gift of God’s mercy. Conferring blessings has reminded me of the gift of God’s presence and the graces he offers every moment of our lives. In these encounters, I am aware that it is always God who ministers through me.

It is part of a continual call to trust. The Lord calls us to ministry with our strengths and weaknesses. I can trust in St. Paul’s assurance, “He who calls you is faithful” (1 Th. 5:24). He will offer the graces that I need to minister as he wishes.

LOOKING AHEAD

Having had the privilege of writing the “seminarian diary” column these past two years, I will now be sharing my reflections as a newly ordained priest. The new encounters and “firsts” offer opportunities to reflect on the immense grace that the Lord bestows on those whom he calls, making us “earthen vessels,” instruments of his divine love. As I look forward to the joys and challenges ahead, I am reminded of the Lord’s call, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Father Tom Fallati is parochial vicar at St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Schenectady.


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