Priesthood, ministry are about more than a role or status, Redemptorist says


Sr. Camille D’Arienzo interviews Fr. John Collins, CSsR, chaplain to Gwynedd Mercy University about his priestly vocation and ministry. This an article came in the National Catholic Reporter, and Scala News likes to share this with you.

Sr. Camille: Last year, in a chapel packed with your family, friends and fans, you recently celebrated your silver jubilee as a Redemptorist priest. The intensity of joy and gratitude was testimony to the impact of your ministry on others. We’ll talk about that later, but first, I’d like to learn about the family that nurtured your vocation.

What was your childhood like and where and with whom did you spend it?

Collins: I am one of nine children born to my parents, George and Helen. There are nine of us who were born in 10 years! I have a twin sister, and we have always been good friends to one another along the way. Childhood was often busy, hectic, and filled with lots of activity. Nana and my famous Auntie Kay were a great help to my mother with all of us! We were by no means well off, and there were certainly challenges, but I don’t remember ever feeling as if I wanted for anything.

What schools did you attend?

The parish grammar school at my home parish, Mission Church, through grade 6, the Boston Latin School from grades 7 to 12, and Boston University for a year before entering the seminary.

Did you have role models?

Yes. Our parish was still the center of life, so many people of the parish, along with the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Redemptorist priests left many an impression on me.

Can you name anyone who especially encouraged you to become a priest?

A great old gentleman and Redemptorist, Fr. Arthur J. Finn, would often say to me about priesthood, “John, when are you going to stop fighting it?”

What led you to choose the Redemptorist community?

I grew up in a Redemptorist parish and had three uncles who were members of the community. My father’s two brothers (Bill and Jack) are now deceased, my mother’s brother (Frank) is 81 and semi-retired in our Boston community.

You are cherished as chaplain to the Mid-Atlantic Community of the Sisters of Mercy. How did that come about?

I was working in NYC, primarily in a counseling/mental health ministry, when a Sister of Mercy that I’d previously known from New York told me that Gwynedd Mercy University in Pennsylvania was looking for a chaplain. My community gave me permission to accept the position after interviewing for it. I had previously helped out on some occasions at the Convent of Mercy at Merion, so I was not totally unknown when I started at the university in 2001. I had also known some of the Mercy sisters who founded and ministered at Mercy Center in the Bronx through my years in NYC.

Being associated with and a part of a Mercy ministry at the university gave me many opportunities to establish ongoing relationships and to collaborate with the sisters and their associates on retreats, workshops, and other mission/ministry programs. I am grateful for all the blessings that have come from my life and ministry in Mercy.

What gifts do you bring to them?

I hope that I bring a deep sense of appreciation for their lives of service and their generous and profound witness to God’s mercy. I hope that I have conveyed my conviction that I value and honor their experience, that I care to listen, to learn, and to understand their experience, so as to be able to be present, available, and responsive in whatever way might be helpful. I don’t know where the church, our country, and our world would be without the grit, the work, the grace, and the witness of women religious. I am deeply grateful for all the ways that I have been blessed by their wisdom and goodness, which has been nourishing, hope-filled, and at times challenging in healthy and life-giving ways.

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