This is the third in a series of seven profiles of the men to be ordained new priests for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 20.
Teenage altar server, Randy Kraft, felt hesitant about serving at his first Easter Vigil Mass about a decade ago. He had “heard it was like a 3-hour Mass,” much longer than other Masses he had served. Yet it was at this Mass he remembers feeling “such a sense of peace, a sense of joy, and a clarity I never experienced before.”
It was after this Mass that Kraft says he started taking his Catholic faith “a lot more seriously” and praying every day.
“I was asking God, ‘What do you want me to do? What is my vocation?’ I would pray about being a priest, and I felt that same peacefulness, that same joy. It led me to the seminary right after high school.”
Kraft is now a transitional deacon who will be ordained to the priesthood later this month in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Kraft grew up in Huntingdon Valley. He’s the son and oldest child of father Randall, an employee of GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company, and mother Christina, a homemaker. Kraft has two younger sisters, Stephanie, a Penn State student, and Natalie, a DeSales University student.
The Kraft family’s home parish is Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton where the family still lives. Kraft attended the parish grade school, and then Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem, where he graduated in 2015.
During his school years, Kraft enjoyed both playing and watching sports. He played the third base position in baseball and played CYO basketball.
He’s a loyal fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Sixers, and Phillies. As a boy, Kraft says he attended many Phillies games with his father, and his favorite player was Second Baseman Chase Utley. “I liked his hustle and his heart,” says Kraft.
Kraft became an altar server in sixth grade and served through his late teenage years. His duties expanded to training new altar servers and scheduling altar servers for weekly Masses.
“When I served Mass, I felt very close to God,” he said. “People in my parish would come up to me after Mass and say, ‘Did you ever think of becoming a priest?’ I guess people say that to altar servers sometime, but I had a lot of experiences like that.”
As a transitional deacon, Kraft says he enjoys preaching, teaching Bible study, bringing communion and visiting the sick. He also enjoys “hanging out in the back of church and talking” with parishioners. “I feel confident this is what God is asking me to do, to be a priest, and I can’t wait,” he says.
Of his time at St. Charles Seminary, Kraft says he’s experienced growth in his vocation and in spiritual fatherhood.
“Every man is called to be a father. I think God is calling me to be a spiritual father, and to have a bigger family than I could ever imagine,” he says. “This family loves me, and I love them. God calls me to lay down my life for them, sacrifice for them, love them as a father does.”
On priestly celibacy, Kraft says, “It’s not so much what you’re giving up, but what you’re gaining. What you’re gaining is this big family that’s bigger than you can ever imagine, and this relationship with God that’s closer than you can ever imagine.”
Kraft’s transitional deacon assignment was at St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown, which has a large number of Hispanic parishioners. Kraft had “only some” knowledge of the Spanish language, and his seminary Spanish immersion experience in Mexico was cancelled due to COVID.
He says he found this situation to be “very humbling, because I couldn’t always communicate what I wanted to say. I had to almost talk like a little kid at times and often ask people to repeat themselves. People were very nice to me and helped me.”
Kraft says he preached, baptized, gave house blessings, talks, taught OCIA, all in Spanish.
Kraft’s first Mass as a priest will be on May 21 at his home parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton. Homilist will be Fr. Patrick Welsh, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, who Kraft considers “a good mentor, a good friend.”
Reflecting back on that first Easter Vigil Mass years ago, Kraft says, “It was a key turning point [in my life] despite my hesitancy, but God broke through.”
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