‘The Church accepts your resolve’: Malachi Clark deemed worthy candidate for priesthood

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Widely admired for his courage in fighting disease, Malachi Clark has heroes himself, drawn from drama and real life.

As the Church formally accepted him as a worthy candidate for the priesthood July 29, Clark cited the title character’s comment before the battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare’s Henry V: “We few, we happy, we band of brothers.” That quote went out to Clark’s fellow seminarians who attended the Rite of Candidacy along with hundreds of others in Syracuse’s Holy Family Church.

Clark also bowed to a friar, Blessed Solanus Casey, a humble Capuchin Franciscan who was known as “The Doorkeeper,” admired by Clark for his “simple spirituality … confidence in God and being thankful and joyful and being there for people.”

He credited, too, his parents and family. “You are my heroes,” he said, giving staccato emphasis to each word. They were there in the church, as he said, “in magnificent numbers.” Clark also thanked anyone who has helped him in any way, such as cards, text messages, and the “delightful reception” that awaited the assemblage after the ceremony.

Clark, 26, spent his first six years in Connecticut, then grew up in Binghamton. He is the youngest of eight children. His pastoral year of priestly formation at Holy Family was interrupted by surgeries and 12 weeks of chemotherapy for testicular cancer. He has said there were days when he felt so horrible, he thought he was going to die.

“Getting better bit by bit,” he said after Sunday’s rite, which resounded with calls for vocations like his. “Cancer free currently, now just monitoring everything.”

He has already spent three years at St. John’s University in Queens and two years at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore. In late August, he will start his final two years at the seminary. Coming up, he said, is a lot of study of parts of the Bible. If all goes well, he will be ordained a transitional deacon next year, and then a priest in 2020.

In the Holy Family bulletin, the pastor, Father John D. Manno, wrote a summary of Clark’s pastoral year, which he is wrapping up: He taught at the elementary school; served daily, weekend, and funeral Masses and weddings; assisted at baptisms; performed wake services at the funeral home and burials at the cemetery; taught a class for adult education; and led the parish in prayer on several occasions.

“Most especially,” Father Manno wrote, “I am grateful for his courage and bravery in dealing with cancer and his willingness to allow us to accompany him on that journey. As a parish family we prayed for him, suffered with him, cried with him, and celebrated with him that great news that he is cancer free!” Father Manno wrote.

Father Manno thanked Malachi’s parents, siblings, and family “for creating a home where the faith is practiced and lived and where a vocation to serve the Church is nourished and nurtured.”

“To any young man out there thinking of studying for the priesthood, I encourage you to join us,” Clark told the congregation. “Try it out. You will not be disappointed.”

The celebrant, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, praised the parish and said he hopes that Holy Family “will be noted for the generosity of your young people willing to step forward and devote themselves in a special way” to a religious vocation. “We pray that God will inspire other young people, perhaps even a member of your own family,” to prayerfully consider God’s plan.

The Gospel for the day was Jesus’ miracle of feeding the hungry with loaves and fish. Clark, the bishop said, is “showing his willingness to give his life” to feed thousands of people with God’s word and his body and blood in years to come. In Holy Orders, the bishop said, Clark will receive the “singular seal of the holy priesthood” and the “singular seal of the Holy Spirit for the ministry of God and his Church.” The bishop noted that as a priest, Clark will perform the “saving work of Christ.”

Questioned by Bishop Cunningham in front of the congregation, Clark affirmed that he is resolved to complete his priestly preparation and to prepare himself in mind and spirit to serve faithfully.

“The Church accepts your resolve with joy,” the bishop said.

“It was a beautiful ceremony,” said Malachi’s mom, Mari Jo Clark.

Asked how her son’s vocation happened, she said, “God’s calling him, hopefully, to the priesthood.”

The rite, Malachi’s father, Courtney said, “was basically a culmination of all the years of preparation to get to this point. … We’re happy that he’s got this far, because … he’s had a rough go of it” with the cancer fight. Malachi has been walking a lot since he finished chemotherapy in March, his dad said.

Holy Family parishioners were beaming as well.

“First time I’ve been to something like that, and I thought it was beautiful,” said Rose Marie Train. “And it was so nice to have so many people and so many clergy here … and his family to be able to share it with him.”

Asked what she thinks of Malachi’s personality, she said, “Couldn’t be much better. Always got that smile on his face, even though what he’s gone through. We’ve been praying for him.”

Rose Marie’s sister, Mary Jane Train, said, “Something special today for him. … We really missed him and we followed him all the way with his journey with his cancer and so on. … He’s such a wonderful person the way he handled all of that, to go through with it, the hardship.”

Msgr. Michael T. Meagher, pastor of the Parish of Saints John and Andrew in Binghamton, has known the Clarks for 10 years. “He’s going to be a wonderful priest,” the monsignor said of Malachi.

Malachi has grown in spirituality and in humanness, Msgr. Meagher said, adding: “As a prayerful person, Solanus Casey shows us Malachi: just a willingness to walk with people, willingness to follow where the Lord leads him.”

“As parents,” Malachi’s father said, “we ask other parents to give their children to God in religions vocations. And that’s one of the greatest things we can do as parents, is to give our children to God, ’cause God gave our children to us, and now we’re [giving] back to him.”