I grew up in a little house on the corner of Carrier and Lafayette with my parents and two brothers and sisters. When I was eight years old, we moved over to Page Street. And yes, it is true – 22 priests and religious have come from Page Street. What a blessing! From an early age in grade school, I felt the call and interest to become a priest. Growing up near St. Alphonsus Parish in Grand Rapids, I was influenced by the Redemptorists who served at the parish, and by several of my cousins who were Redemptorists. My older brother Harry went to the seminary three years before I did.
Leaving home in the ninth grade to enter St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edgerton was not easy for me as a 14-year-old boy. We left the day after Labor Day and did not come home until June 10. The rhythm of seminary life took over pretty quickly. Studies, prayer life and community building with new friends As the years went by, I became more aware that the Redemptorists are a worldwide missionary Congregation, and that I could be sent to Thailand or Brazil. After my ordination on June 24, 1971, I was sent to St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago to serve as associate pastor. After that, it was on to serve at St. Alphonsus Parish in Minneapolis, then to St. Louis, Wichita, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis again, and now back to Grand Rapids. All of my ministry has been in our Redemptorist parishes, and I love it!
Over the years, I have come to appreciate the complexities of living in community life. Redemptorists are assigned to communities and asked to live together for the sake of the ministry. In my first assignment in Chicago, I was 27 years old and the median age in the community was 72. There were 12 men living there. Community life isn’t always easy. So many different personalities are thrown together and asked to live and work together. This has been one of my challenges in community life. And yet, the coming together for daily prayer and meals has kept us focused on the purpose of our lives as religious: to live in community and support each other in the various ministries in which God has called us to serve.
St. Alphonsus taught the Redemptorists to be pastoral. He wanted us to reach out to the poor and most abandoned, and let them know about God’s plentiful redemption. One of the special hallmarks of a Redemptorist parish is that we are available to serve the many needs of people – regardless of whether or not they are registered members of a parish or practicing their faith – who are in need of God’s mercy. St. Alphonsus envisioned the Redemptorists as “helpers, companions and ministers of Jesus Christ in the great work of redemption,” and wanted them to preach the Word of Salvation to the poor.
This is one of the greatest challenges facing us as Redemptorists. How do we attract young men to our way of community life and be inspired to proclaim God’s plentiful redemption? We serve in parishes, preach missions, give retreats, work in Latino ministries – the work and opportunities to serve are endless. In in my 45 years as a priest and 50 years as a Redemptorist, God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. I have been fortunate to be with people in their darkest moments and most painful times, and bring them the peace and comfort of the Lord. There have been beautiful times of great joy and happiness at baptisms and weddings. In all of these experiences, I have come away blessed and enriched.
Most important, all of those times that I thought I was ministering, I found out that it was actually the other way around – people were giving me the present of Christ! I pray that our gracious God will open the hearts of young men to become Redemptorists. I pray that God gives me the health of mind and body to continue as a Redemptorist and serve his people. Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us and guide us.
Pat Grile, C.Ss.R.
(Taken from Denverlink)