The first priest I told about wanting to be a priest chuckled, but he had every right to laugh. There I was, a sophomore in high school who seemed to revel in bad decisions and getting into trouble. After his brief chuckle, however, that priest told me, “The Lord calls whom He wills, but you need to pray about it.” For the next seven years, I did pray and think and talk and pray some more about a priestly vocation.
During my senior year of college, I knew I needed to get serious about what the Lord was asking of me. So, I joined a Catholic volunteer program and accepted a job teaching seventh grade at St. Michael Indian School on the Navajo Reservation in rural, northeastern Arizona. As I worked, prayed, and discerned Our Lord’s will in my life, I was blessed to witness the communal witness of prayer, poverty, and service of the Franciscan Friars. My latent desire to be a priest was suddenly ignited by the fervor, simplicity, and generosity of those friars.
Suddenly, my yearning to be a priest, my love of teaching, my experiences of community living, and my ever deepening desire for silence and contemplative prayer coalesced in the idea of a religious vocation. To live in community, to pray with my brothers, to be poor, chaste, and obedient, to consecrate my whole being to Christ and His Church, it just made sense. Yet, the more I explored the Franciscans, the more I knew they were not the right fit so I set out to explore other orders and communities.
By God’s providence, I met a Dominican priest while in college. As the sacristan for our campus ministry, I always arrived at the chapel early to set up for Mass. One week I arrived earlier than usual and I discovered a man walking about Church in a strange white habit. An impressive man and a zealous priest, we spoke for 10 minutes and he told me, “Dominicans are like Franciscans, but more involved in preaching and teaching.”
Three years later, those words echoed in my head. I went online and I found the Dominicans in the Midwest. I spoke with the vocation director. I signed up for a “Come and See” vocation’s weekend. I arrived on Friday knowing little about the Dominicans. I left on Sunday knowing God wanted me there — maybe not forever, but there.
What was I to do? The Lord had touched my heart. He wanted me to give religious life a try. So, I quit a job I absolutely loved and I entered the novitiate. I didn’t know if I would last a week or die a Dominican, but I took a leap of faith and trusted in the Lord. What little I gave to the Lord, He has given me more as a Dominican, and now a Dominican priest, more than I could ever give Him.
As Pope Benedict XVI said in his inaugural homily as pope, echoing his saintly predecessor, “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great… Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”
Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP is from St. Clement Parish in Des Peres and attended Chaminade College Prep. He entered the Dominicans in 2009 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2016. He now serves as a chaplain at St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University.