Still going strong

Three newly ordained priests celebrate their first year with a Mass at Blessed Sacrament

“It’s really been a good year,” commented Father Joseph O’Connor, parochial vicar at St. James Church in Johnson City. He, along with Father Kevin Maloney, parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Church in Syracuse, and Father Thienan Tran, parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, were celebrating their first year of priesthood at a special Mass in the chapel of Blessed Sacrament Church on June 5. Father O’Connor led close to 50 people through the Mass, with Father Maloney and Father Tran assisting in the reading of the Scriptures and the consecration.

Father O’Connor said that the support they have received from the community, their family and their friends had proved invaluable in the last year. “I’m very grateful for the support that the people of the parish have shown me,” he said. “The loving support that communities offer to their priests helps us to fulfill what we are called to do.” Father O’Connor presided over his first Mass at Most Holy Rosary Church in Syracuse, his home parish. Father O’Connor described his presence at the Mass as being part of a miracle. “To stand at the altar at Most Holy Rosary, where I served Mass as a kid, and celebrate my first Mass was surreal,” said Father O’Connor. “It was very powerful and moving to bring the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ to the people who gave me life and supported me along the journey to priesthood. I have always wanted to bring Jesus to the world, and to do that in such a real way for the first time as a priest was amazing.”

Father O’Connor said his first year as a priest at St. James Church in Johnson City has gone by fast and he has loved every minute of it. He feels fulfilled. “After years of studying in college and the seminary, it is great to finally be at work,” Father O’Connor remarked. “When God uses you in some way to touch the life of a parishioner, it is deeply rewarding.”

Father O’Connor is continually inspired by the trust and openness of the parishioners at St James. “They invite you into a very special place in their lives,” said Father O’Connor. “I’m also inspired by the time people invest in St. James. After hours at work and with their families, they still give huge amounts of time to the parish. I find myself challenged to respond with as much hard work and generosity.”

Father Kevin Maloney began serving as priest on July 1, 2005. He described his first Mass as being “awesome.” Twenty priests attended the Mass at which Father Maloney enjoyed the music and a homily presented by Father Timothy Taugher. “The homily was very inspirational,” remarked Father Maloney. “It centered around the year of the Eucharist. I was nervous, but I felt supported by everyone — you get to feel more comfortable over time.” Father Maloney said it’s been a very good year for him at Blessed Sacrament. He said the parishioners have been supportive and encouraging. “They also tell me when something is wrong,” remarked Father Maloney. “It keeps me humble.”

In addition, Father Maloney enjoys interacting with the Blessed Sacrament School students and staff. “Having the school here is wonderful as well,” he said. “Seeing the children at the school Masses has been really uplifting for me. I love greeting the children every morning with their smiling faces. It’s a nice way to start the day.” Father Maloney felt the call to serve as a priest while attending SUNY Binghamton in his senior year. At that time, he planned to teach biology and work as an athletic trainer. “I loved going to Mass,” Father Maloney said. That love for the Mass is one of the things he likes most about being a priest today. “I love saying Mass every day — it’s one of the most important things a priest can do.”

One of the challenges that Father Maloney faces is when he needs to change his mind set from one circumstance to another during the day. “It’s difficult if I have a funeral in the morning, and then I need to visit someone in a nursing home who is expecting to see a smiling face,” explained Father Maloney. His time spent serving as a priest has helped Father Maloney realize how strong his faith is. “I’ve also felt humbled to see how lacking it is at times,” he said. “Sometimes you’re not prepared for certain situations, but I think the Holy Spirit gives you the grace to get through these moments.”

Father Maloney copes with the difficult aspects of his ministry by visiting his family in Liverpool, playing golf, visiting his parishioners and exercising. He also credits his fellow priests as a source of support when dealing with troubling situations.

Father Maloney would like to see more young people attend Mass at Blessed Sacrament. He also envisions more events and programs planned for the youth. “It’s been a great year,” remarked Father Maloney. “Throughout this whole thing, the Spirit moves me and tells me I am doing the right thing.”

Father Thienan Tran, parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, would also like to provide more activities for young adults in his parish. He would like to provide a place for them to gather so they can learn about their faith and their church and to share their experiences. It’s been an interesting and exciting year for Father Tran. “It’s challenging to serve at the Cathedral,” he said. “I love the challenge — it’s a good experience to be there. I see a lot of people experiencing difficulties and stress in their lives, and it’s a joy to be there for the people. I really like celebrating the sacraments and the Eucharist every day.”

Father Tran realized his vocation to the priesthood when he was just 16. As the choir director at his church in Viet Nam he chose the liturgical music. “The words of the songs about the love of God affected me so much,” said Father Tran. “The priest who served the Mass that day impressed me so much, I said in my mind, ‘I want to serve.’”

Father Tran regularly struggles with communicating with his parishioners. “Communicating clearly with the people to give them the message is my continuing challenge,” he said. “The word of God has helped me transform and change my life. It’s really helped me with my ministry so much. I thank God that after a year, I can get the message to the people.”

To cope with the stress of his ministry, Father Tran employs a number of devices. He regularly plays the piano in the choir room on the second floor at the Cathedral. He also finds support by talking to his family and friends. Father Tran finds comfort in his motto, “Through the cross, you come to glory.” Father Tran explained, “It provides my hope through difficulties. Jesus went through difficulties, but the glory came in the end.”

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