By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
The best promoters of vocations to the priesthood aren’t mothers or fathers or teachers, but priests themselves. They can be the positive role models for the men who are considering the most important decision in their entire life. Almost as critical, because they’ve been through the discernment process, priests understand what it involves and can give empathy and support.
Father Christopher B. Rogers, ordained in 2000 and now director of the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood, remembers his own decision.
“The hardest thing for me was wondering, ‘What will my friends think?'” he said.
Actually, while growing up in St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia and St. Hilary of Poitiers Parish in Rydal, the oldest of five children of Jim and Rosemary Rogers, the thought of becoming a priest was there. He remembers in fifth grade at St. Jerome School, a teacher asked the students to write down what they wanted to be. He wrote he wanted to be a priest, “to do what Jesus did and convert the pagans.”
Later at St. Hilary School and Bishop McDevitt High School, his understanding of the priesthood matured and the vocational seed grew, although he did not speak about it to others. As his high school days were winding down, he knew he might have a vocation to the priesthood.
Encouragement came from an unexpected source. Father John Glynn, now deceased, was a former military chaplain and pastor at St. Hilary.
“At first I didn’t care for him. He was a meat-and-potatoes priest. I liked bells and whistles,” Father Rogers remembers. But it was Father Glynn, who recognized his potential vocation and invited him to attend vocation programs at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Father Rogers came to see Father Glynn for what he was: an older priest, faithful, seasoned and still happy in his calling. When Father Glynn died in 2002, it was Father Rogers’ privilege to preach at his funeral.
Nevertheless, back in 1991, in his senior year of high school, Father Rogers still had not made a firm commitment on his future, although his parents knew which way he was leaning.
His father asked him what he wanted to do. He said he might apply to Temple University.
“You don’t go to Temple to be a priest, you go to the seminary,” his father bluntly advised.
That was the final push he needed. He applied to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, spent nine happy years there and was ordained in 2000.
“The seminary gave me time to put it in God’s hands,” he said. “Each year I had a better understanding of this vocation.”
Yes, there is self-interest involved in the decision, but “as you go along you realize it is less about you and more about God’s plan for you. It is for others you are doing it, not for yourself,” he said.
He discovered the seminary is not solely a place to study for the priesthood, but also to discern one’s vocation.
During the process, some young men realize they do not have a vocation to the priesthood. This was the case with one of Father Rogers’ best friends at the seminary.
“It was disconcerting when he left, but his leaving helped to clarify for me what I was doing,” he said. They remain in touch and, in fact, Father Rogers is the godfather to his friend’s son.
Father Rogers has been ordained for eight years, five of them as a parochial vicar at SS. Phillip and James Parish, Exton. Most recently he has served as archdiocesan vocations director, yet he’s still doing the ministry he envisioned, celebrating the sacraments for God’s people and taking joy in service to God and the Church.
About the reaction of those friends he worried about before entering the seminary: “They thought it was great, they thought it unique,” Father Rogers said. “No one else did it, and they respected that. They thought it took courage.”