For the past several years, Father Patrick Mary, a Franciscan of the Eternal Word, served Mount St. Mary’s University students by celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, and providing opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration and spiritual direction. Last semester, Fall 2021, marked Fr. Patrick’s farewell from the Mount; he is now at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. He continues to serve God through administering the sacraments to the sisters, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, who serve many pilgrims at the Shrine. We asked Fr. Patrick if he might reflect on his time at the Mount and how he would invite students to see the campus as a place that allows young adults to engage in a search for and encounter with beauty.
Where is home for you?
I’m originally from Florida, but the religious community I belong to is based in Alabama.
Where did you study as an undergraduate?
I started at the University of Miami, but during my freshman year I had a conversion experience and began discerning the religious life and the priesthood. I ended up entering the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word and, after a few years of formation, I went to finish my undergrad at Mount St. Mary’s University.
When and where did you enter seminary?
I studied theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary from 2008-2012.
How long have you been a priest?
I have been a priest for nine years – since June of 2012.
How long have you been at MSMU?
I spent six years at the Mount as a student (two years in pre-theology/finishing my undergrad and four years studying theology in the Seminary). In addition, although I never served at the Mount in an official capacity, I had the blessing of being able to help cover some of the Masses for the students for the last several years.
In your experience, what is the most valuable thing this campus has to offer young adults of any faith?
I think one of the most valuable things the Mount and any university can offer is to instill a love and hunger for truth in the students, which, if pursued whole-heartedly, can lead to a life-changing encounter with the source of truth: God Himself.
How were you impacted by the rich Catholic history of humble Emmitsburg, Maryland? What was it like to administer the Sacraments while treading the very same ground as Saint Mother Seton, Fr. John Dubois, and Blessed Stanley Rother?
It’s easy to think of the saints as being very distant from us, but recalling that some of these holy men and women walked these very grounds is quite inspiring. It’s a reminder that they were real people just like us. I also personally find it very encouraging to read and learn about the struggles and difficulties that they endured and how, through God’s grace, they were able to overcome them and persevere to the end in fidelity to God. Additionally, they show us that living the Gospel is possible and that holiness of life and union with Christ is within the reach of every person.
What was the most compellingly beautiful element of ministering to college students at the Mount?
I have to say it was observing the deep faith of the students and their sense of reverence and devotion at Mass. I was often able to cover the Wednesday night Mass and it was clear that there was a deep conviction regarding belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It was very edifying for me as a priest to witness.
What would you say to Mount students striving to live lives of significance on campus and beyond?
I would encourage them to cultivate a life of prayer and virtue, as well as a love for truth, goodness, and beauty. They lead us to God, who is the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful.
Now that your time at the Mount has come to a close, where are you now and how does this work differ? What is your main apostolate?
I am currently assigned at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama (www.olamshrine.com). At the shrine, the role of our friars is to provide for the spiritual needs of our sisters, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, as well as the locals and pilgrims that come to the shrine for Mass and to pray. We also hear confessions daily, give catechetical and spiritual talks to visiting pilgrim groups, and lead Eucharistic Healing Services, which are basically holy hours with a brief sermon followed by both general and individual benediction. In my previous assignment when living in Emmitsburg, I was the chaplain for our EWTN employees in Washington, D.C., so I would commute there a couple times each week. One assignment that continues with my recent move back to Alabama is my role as Vocation Director for our community. The main apostolate of our community remains the same as well, regardless of our particular assignments, and that is to use whatever means are available to preach and teach the Gospel and our Catholic faith and to seek out and try to bring back those who have fallen away from the practice of their faith.