Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Stories of Sacrifice and Giving

Father John J. Lombardi

Would you give up a major-money making career, family and fame to become celibate, materially poor and a busy as a bee all the time? Chase Hilgenbrinck, a soccer phenom with the New England Revolution has given all of that up to…to become a priest. His decision means he'll be right down the hill from the Grotto, living and studying for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary's Seminary.

Chase, born in Illinois, played soccer for Chile, then signed to play for New England before he found a higher calling. "After years of discernment," says Chase, " I feel strongly that the Lord has called me to become a priest of the Catholic Church. Playing professional soccer has become my passion for a long now time and I feel blessed to have successfully lived out this dream. My passion now is to do the will of God, which is wanting only what He wants for me. Though I will miss the game of soccer I know that I am moving to something much greater."

"Wanting to do only what He wants for me"

Do you have that thought and passion or have you ever encouraged a young man and teen to become a priest? We need stories like this to re-inspire us and certainly we need more men to consider this vocation or calling. The Latin word for vocation actually means "to call." If we do not call people to the priesthood, then who will? Frequently people respond when a seed is planted. Maybe some young man around you needs confirmation and encouragement for the seed to grow.

I must admit: I've been shy in the past, to encourage men to the priesthood, but the more I read stories like Hilgenbricnk's, and hear others calling on men to serve the more I want to invite others to The Call too. Archbishop O'Brien is making definite and concrete advances in vocations and encouraging us all to encourage others to build up the body of Christ.

We need priests today; many parishes do not have an assigned pastor; priests are mutli-tasking and burning out. The priesthood does have its challenges:

  • Life-long commitment
  • celibacy;
  • lack of prestige
  • lack of financial gain

Think of Hilgenbrinck's virtues:

  • Conversion-"I feel strongly the Lord has called me to become a priest of the Catholic Church."
  • Vision- "I want to move on to something much greater."
  • Jobs, possessions and relationships can be great, but not as great as a living relationship with the Lord God, serving Him.

Do you have that same vision as Hilgenbrinck?

Carpe Diem/Seize the day: Why wait? Hilgenbrinck says: "We are all called to do something…my specific call is to the priesthood. It is now not possible for me to continue with soccer, this (calling) is absolutely inevitable."

The Universal call to holiness of the Vatican II asks us to remind all: single, married and laypersons they are called to be holy wherever they are.

Homeless and Helpful

Recently I was rushing as usual trying to get away to say Mass in a town nearby when a lady stopped me. She was holding a bag looking a little disheveled and possibly homeless. I was thinking of a thousand things I had to do. I'm sure I looked a little harried but I began to listen as she told me she was living in her car.

Then, she stopped me cold saying: "I understand you're building a welcome center…I want to make a donation." I woke right up! Instantly I thought: "God does this a lot to me at the Grotto. I'm busy with all my duties moving life along when someone stops me. Someone who needs help, a special favor and asking for a blessing turns into a favor for the Grotto instead - not asking -giving."

The holy lady pulled out her donation: a bunch of change - "A widow's mite."

I took the money gratefully, humbly knowing I had once again underestimated a pilgrim. I gave her a holy card and a blessing and instantly she disappeared moving to some other unknown place. Her visit had manifested "an encounter with the Lord's love."

Thankfully, our Pilgrims' Center is getting donations both large and small and this homeless lady's contribution was tiny but gigantic. I'm learning not to underestimate people's goodness. We need everyone's help and the grace and love of Mary and Jesus.

If you want to make a donation contact Bill Tronolone at our Grotto Office, 301-447- 6725. Every donation and prayer counts and contributes to Mary's Holy Shrine and your Grotto!

Giving in Love and Marriage

Recently a friend of mine, Fr. Jim Farmer related the story of a couple who impressed him with their faith:

  • attending Mass,
  • believing Church teachings,
  • following Jesus amidst challenges

When the father lost his job, despite having a bunch of children already, he and his wife decided to have yet another child. They did and soon after he got a good job.

We hear many stories of couples like this: with family issues, financial difficulties, under job pressures yet deciding to have another child? The cost of raising a child today takes a million dollars and that's only through adolescence.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote "Humanae Vitae" ("On Human Life") encouraging Catholic and Christian couples to be open to birth in the way God designed marital love; without contraception. Then and now it is a call to discipleship at a time when children are equated with dollars and are not always welcomed into life and marital love. It is a time when sacrificing family love and life becomes an option for many.

We need more reminders to inspire us and also instigate us into divine Life!

The practicing Catholics and Christians trusted in God, their Church and their spiritual lives, and gave their mission to the Lord (as the saints recommend in the bible).

Can you do the same?

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi