Holy Cross priests share experiences
Lily Hough | Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Four Holy Cross priests left their liturgical vestments behind Tuesday night to participate in an informal discussion titled “Men in Black: Holy Cross Stories” as a part of this week’s celebration of the Feast of Blessed Fr. Basil Moreau. The panel included Fr. Timothy Scully, Fr. Ralph Haag and Fr. Paul Doyle. Fr. Bill Lies, who participated on last year’s panel, served as the master of ceremonies.
Lies brought attention to the mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross at the discussion’s opening.
“At the heart of our founder’s vision was that in Holy Cross, we would educate not only the mind but the heart as well,” Lies said. “These three men have taken that mission to heart.”
The panelists spent the night documenting their experiences and inspirations with slideshows of their families, college years, community work and baby pictures.
Scully, who majored in economics at Notre Dame, gave a familiar account of his memories as a student in the 1980s.
“Like any Notre Dame student, I had a ball. I fell in love with this place,” Scully said.
But Scully found something else at Notre Dame, which changed his plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and attend law school.
“I fell in love with Notre Dame because I fell in love with the priests of Holy Cross,” Scully said.
Scully requested to attend law school after seminary, but his Superior sent him to Chile instead.
“My entire imagination of what my priesthood would be about came crashing down,” he said.
But Chile was a new revelation, Scully said.
“I fell in love with Chile, with its people, geography, song and culture,” Scully said. “God has such a funny way of pointing our feet in the way of God’s plan.”
But not all of Scully’s reflections were fit for a homily. In one account, he remembered being marched to Church every morning by the nuns of his childhood parish school Sacred Heart in Winnetka, Ill. Rather than follow the double file line to Mass, Scully said he and his friends always attempted to sneak down an alley that led to a bakery.
“As much as we loved the Eucharist, we loved the bakery more at that hour,” Scully said.
Haag’s initial uncertainties about priesthood echoed Scully’s reflections. It wasn’t until his junior year of college that Haag, whose hobbies include “making beer, bass fishing and playing Halo,” according to Lies, gave serious consideration to the vocation.
Haag said he already had an internship lined up for after graduation, and had no plans for the seminary.
“The funny thing is, everything was going right and even the future was falling in place,” he said.
But something was wrong, Haag said.
“There wasn’t joy in the things and achievements that I had,” Haag said. “It was time to finally consider what had been in my thoughts for some time, thoughts that I had wanted to avoid and had avoided for so long. But they could no longer be avoided.”
Choosing priesthood was just the beginning of Haag’s vocational search. When it came to choosing an order, Haag couldn’t find anything that felt right, he said.
“Every time I went out, I couldn’t wait to get home. I couldn’t wait to leave. I began to think that this just wasn’t me and I thought the same thing was going to happen when I came to Holy Cross,” where he said something was different.
“I caught myself saying I wish I didn’t have to go home,” Haag said. “My eyes were open to see where I was supposed to be and that was at Holy Cross.”
This exciting discovery was not the end, but a new beginning, Haag said.
After spending most of his early years in the priesthood at St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix, Ariz., Haag moved on to a new assignment as rector of St. Edward’s Hall, which he has found to be “never a dull moment.”
“There’s always something going on at St. Ed’s,” Haag said. “To be able to be present in this life from the most mundane to the most profound, I have discovered is a rare gift and a rare opportunity. The residents have become your own in a certain way and in time, you find that they have been changing your own heart and mind.”
Haag said he had no resentments about the distance between himself in South Bend and his family in Omaha.
“What I’ve learned through this all is that I really haven’t given up family or home. It’s like the Gospel says, I’ve gained so much more,” Haag said.
For Doyle, the issue of leaving his family behind was also of concern when choosing a religious order. Flipping through old family photos, Doyle expressed his past worries about not being able to provide for his parents in their elderly life.
“But the Lord has provided,” Doyle said. “If we just step out in faith, the answers come.”
Doyle’s answers came from what he called “surprising encounters” from the Spirit throughout his childhood and early adult life.
“God comes to us in all sorts of disguises,” Doyle said. “Incarnate. He takes on flesh.”
With his discussion of family, Doyle emotionally recalled his last conversation with his father.
“He said to me, ‘God bless you, son.’ I think, through my parents, God has touched me richly,” Doyle said.
Doyle also discussed what a special role family plays in the mission of Holy Cross, mentioning his admiration for the Congregation’s care of the elderly.
“I have found that after 40 years, these people are more than friends; they are brothers,” Doyle said. “I look around the chapel as we pray together and I say ‘I love these guys.'”