Two different paths to the priesthood

Father Christopher Ford:
As it often happens, Father Christopher Ford felt the call to the priesthood as early as second grade…and it was a call that never really went away. He even went so far as to fill out an application during his senior year of high school, but never got around to handing it in. It wasn’t until after attending college at Southern Connecticut State University and beginning a master’s degree at Kent State University that a priest friend of his challenged him on why he never pursued further the call he felt to be a priest.

“I didn’t have any answer for him except to listen to him and start to take my discernment and call seriously,” says Father Ford. That conversation inspired him to speak with then vocation director, Father Robert Kinnally and enter the seminary.

Father Ford recalls the summer he spent at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha among his most memorable experiences in formation. IPF is a program for diocesan seminarians that gives them deep, meaningful formation especially in the spiritual life and in personal growth. “Throughout my summer at IPF, I was invited and challenged to new depths in my relationship with God, to really learn to receive His love and presence in my life as His beloved son, so that I was more prepared to be able to take on this new role as a spiritual father,” shares Father Ford.

Father Ford’s first assignment as a newly ordained priest finds him at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Danbury which is, coincidentally, where he was assigned as a deacon, both last summer and on weekends during his last year in seminary. “The community here is so welcoming and supportive and I have been blessed with a great pastor, Father Michael Dunn, who really is more of a mentor and a friend than just a boss,” Father Ford explains. “We also have a terrific school that I really enjoy being involved with, being present to the students, the teachers and the parents. They are all a lot of fun. I really couldn’t be more excited to begin my ministry here at St. Greg’s.”

For a new priest, life after ordination can often be a time of great joy as well as one of great challenge. For Father Ford, being able to offer Mass and administer the sacraments is something he has been looking forward to throughout formation. Being challenged and pushed to grow in so many ways since his ordination, Father Ford explains, “I have been experiencing firsthand the truth that ‘the priest is not his own!’ Even with all the craziness, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. God is so good.”

Father Ford has already noticed the way his priesthood has touched people who have been in his life long before he even entered seminary. “Being asked to anoint or celebrate the funerals of friends’ loved ones or being asked to bless their boat before we head out for the afternoon, or even just hear a quick confession before we go out to dinner—these are the experiences I never could have imagined, but have been so moving. To be able to minister not only to the people of my parish community, but even to my friends and family in new and powerful ways is truly a blessing,” he says.

When asked what he looks forward to most about the priesthood, Father Ford expresses that he is now doing every day most of what he was looking forward to throughout his time in formation. “I think for right now, though, I’m just looking forward to really getting to know the lives and stories of the people that God has called me to serve, to really learn who they are and where they come from and what they are going through, so that I can truly be a presence of Christ to them, wherever they find themselves on this crazy journey we call the Christian life.”

Father David Roman:
Father David Roman always thought he would be a teacher. And he was. He taught at St. Joseph in Danbury after attending Western Connecticut State University. Little did he know that this calling would lead to finding his vocation. “I always say it was because of my students that I decided to be a priest,” Father Roman says.

In fact, it was when he was teaching a lesson on vocations that he had to come to terms with his own. Father Roman explains, “It was at this time in my life that I was feeling this emptiness and at that moment I realized what that emptiness was.”

Father Roman shares about an impactful moment in his career. It was at the time of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and St. Joseph in Danbury was put on lock-down, due to its proximity. “I was able to take the statue of Our Lady and we prayed the Rosary together for people that are hurting in the world,” says Father Roman. He remembers feeling that he would surely lay down his life to keep his students safe. He could feel the Lord saying to him, “David, if you can love these kids with such intensity, I want you to love all my people with the same intensity.”

It was moments like these, moments of the human encounter, that made Father Roman know he was called to the priesthood. There were moments of spiritual affirmation throughout his formation including teaching catechetical sessions at Malta House, bringing the love of God to those who had not previously known it, as well as being a healthcare chaplain at Bridgeport Hospital, that helped to shape Father Roman’s spirituality along the way. “I learned how to pray with people, walk with people and really be with people in their suffering,” shares Father Roman.

Life after ordination finds Father Roman at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, where he has jumped right in to life at this very active parish, being able to give first blessings to parishioners, blessing local businesses, getting involved in their youth ministry program, as well as making plans for future young adult initiatives. He has recently performed his first anointing, been able to go into nursing homes, bring people Communion and “to love people where they are,” he says. “Through my unworthy hands, Jesus is made manifest in the Eucharist. I am the most unworthy person and Jesus uses me as a conduit for His love,” says Father Roman.

Father Roman shares a standout moment for him as a new priest. He recently gifted a priestly prayer card to a parishioner who was suffering from terminal cancer. On her death bed, she gripped this prayer card, holding it with her every day, looking at the image of the crucified Jesus. She made it her mission, on her death bed, to pray for Father Roman, who eventually got to go and meet her. Father Roman shares, “It was so humbling that this woman who didn’t know me was thinking about praying for her new priest. I was able to do the wake service for her.”

It is moments like these that Father Roman looks forward to for the future of his priesthood. “This is what we’ve been looking forward to. We’ve prepared for six years to be able to bring God’s love and mercy to people. Being able to hear confessions…people coming to us with their sins, their challenges. We are able to be the conduit of God’s mercy. We have a loving and merciful God. People are craving for that message again and again. Across the age spectrum, we all need to be reminded of that message.” Father Roman looks forward to seeing what that love is going to do in his own priesthood.