Guest column article by newly ordained Deacon Brian H. Baker, S.T.B.
A Farewell from Deacon Brian H. Baker, S.T.B.
When I arrived at Saint Brigid on October 1st of last year, I knew I was on a blessed journey because the Lord had led me here. But exactly how very blessed and in what particular ways those graces would come, I could not have imagined.
I entered seminary six years ago at 28 years old, having heard the Lord call me to become a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. It was a curious call for me because I did not grown up in Atlanta, having moved here after college in 2002. Nevertheless, I knew I had to follow where I heard the Lord calling. The first four years in seminary formation were full of challenges and graces, but not a lot of time in parishes in Atlanta, where I would be serving as a priest for the rest of my life. In the summer of 2011, after two years in Rome, I finally had a seven week assignment at Good Samaritan Church in Ellijay and got my first real taste of the beauty of parish life and ministry.
I began my third theology year back in Rome in the fall of 2011, and after five months of intense prayer and conversations with my spiritual director and good friends, I was able to discern the Lord’s will that I take a “pastoral year” in a parish back in Atlanta and delay ordination to the diaconate.
This was one of the most difficult decisions I had ever made because there is a lot of “momentum” that builds in a man’s life after five years of seminary, just before ordination. A lot of that “momentum” for me was the expectations of many family and friends who had been “saving the date” for my diaconate ordination in Rome! Nevertheless, I had come to a profound respect for the priesthood, an understanding of myself, and a trust in the Lord’s will that enabled me to make the decision to call Archbishop Gregory and ask him for the pastoral year. As I packed my bags in Rome, I prayed, “well, Lord, I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know there will be something beautiful, because it is your will and not mine that I am following.”
One of the main goals for my pastoral year was to try to establish some “roots” in Atlanta. I had gotten to know people throughout the diocese, but I was still lacking a real sense of family in Atlanta. I knew that this dimension of my life would be critical for a healthy priesthood, especially in the beginning years. So I came back to Atlanta, after being away for five years, really, in search of a family.
After a few months at the Cathedral last summer, I was asked to come to Saint Brigid. Very soon after my arrival, I started to understand the beautiful plans the Lord had had in mind when he prompted me to take the pastoral year. I was overwhelmed by the sincere, loving welcome I receive from everyone: from my housemates in the Rectory, to the Saint Brigid staff, to the HR community, to all of the families of Saint Brigid. I dove into as much as I could experience: PSR, EDGE, Life Teen, RCIA, Adult ED, MOSB, KofC, HR carpools and “costume competitions,” meetings, Liturgies, hospital visits… I was teaching, visiting, eating, laughing, serving, worshiping, praying with so many wonderful people of all ages and backgrounds. And through all of these fantastic, rich encounters with so many different and increasingly familiar people, I quickly discovered that God had provided where me with that which I needed the most: I discovered a family. My family.
That is who all of you have become to me. You are my family, and Saint Brigid has truly become my home. You see, not only did I not grow up in the diocese and do not have any family members in Georgia, but I also grew up a military brat. And so there is no other parish community that I have gotten to know and who has gotten to know me as well as Saint Brigid. That is the beautiful gift that God has provided for me. A home and a family.
And it has been within this particular family that I have grown into a fuller understanding, more than all of my years of seminary combined, of the priest God is calling me to be–for him, for his Church. And what else is family but this: the people among whom we discover who we truly are. I came as Seminarian Brian and after 8 months, I had grown enough to receive a new life and ministry as Deacon Brian. I will leave these hallowed halls with this gift of identity and ministry that you have helped me to receive, and (God willing and Johns Creek don’t rise) next year, after nurturing this gift so that it bears the fullness of its fruit, I will return to Saint Brigid as Father Brian.
On that day, my heart bursting with gratitude for all of you, I will return to offer the highest form of Thanksgiving that can be offered: the Holy Eucharist itself. And I will offer that Thanksgiving to God for my life, my ministry, and for my family, the parishioners of Saint Brigid Catholic Church.
Thank you all for allowing me to become part of this family, and to be completely at home here. And I’m sorry, because now you’re stuck with me! 😉
It is with a heavy heart that I must say goodbye for now, but please know that you will remain close to my heart and fervently in my prayers. Please continue me in your prayers! And although thousands of miles will soon separate us, we can always take consolation in the knowledge that we could never be closer than when we are together in the Eucharist.
Yours devotedly in Jesus and Mary,
Of course, in addition to the Eucharist, there is also snail mail, email and Facebook! Please keep in touch… never feel like you are bothering me… every single piece of communication from home that we receive 4000 miles away is always a precious and joyful gift:Rev. Mr. Brian H. Baker Pontifical North American College 00120 Vatican City State Europe Email: BBaker@PNAC.org Facebook: Deacon Brian H. Baker