The Niagara University and Vincentian communities came together May 9, 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the priesthood of Father Maher. The following text was read during the Call to Worship at the beginning of a commemorative Mass in honor of the occasion.
Good evening and welcome to the celebration of my 25th anniversary to the ordination of the priesthood.
In the scriptures for this evening’s Mass, we hear two powerful messages. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read, “The first Christians were astounded by the Holy Spirit.”
In the Gospel of John, we hear the call of Christ to remain in his love. As I reflect upon 25 years of priesthood in the Catholic Church and the Vincentian community, I am deeply grateful for all the witnesses who have graced my life as angels of the Holy Spirit with the promise of unconditional love of Christ.
It has been said that family should be the first church we encounter. My family was my first church. I was blessed with a mother and father who communicated their unconditional love for me, as well as for my brother and sisters.
Each Sunday morning, we would leave our residence at 61 Spring Valley Avenue in Maywood, New Jersey. My parents, John and Mary Maher, five children, John, Marybeth, Anne, me and Kathy, packed in a Ford Falcon (it was not a Guinness record but it felt like it) and head to Mass as a family at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, staying for the whole Mass and not cutting anyone off on the way to the bakery.
We learned too, through my younger sister’s illness and lifelong disability, caring for the weakened is a sign of strength and faith. I learned to see how people who lived with disabilities were actually differently–abled. We were taught, at the end of our lives, we will not be asked simply what we accomplished, but, rather; how great was your love.
I am grateful to share my life in the community of the Vincentians, who were so good to me at St. John’s, where I first met them as a student. Good and holy priests such as Father Brian O’Connell, Father Dick Devine, Father Joe Daly, Father Steve Biscko, Father Joe Foley, Father Tom Hoar, they seemed happy and were very human examples of shared life in the Vincentian community.
I am deeply grateful to my brother, John Maher, who gets second place for the Vincentian who traveled the most miles to be here. Sorry, John, Father Baiju beat you by a continent! John’s words to me in my earliest years stayed with me: “Live a life of faith, invest in people and you will find happiness.” Those words have served me well.
I am grateful for my 23 years of ministry at St. John’s University, where I met wonderful people who made me a better Vincentian and priest, people like my late dear friend and colleague, Pam Shea-Byrnes, and wonderful colleagues, such as Father Mike Carroll, Father Don Harrington, Father Bernie Tracey, Father John Freund, Father Jack McKenna, Father Jim Smith, Father John Kettleberger, Father Jerry Luttenberger, Father Pat Flanagan, Father Kevin Creagh and all the good people of St. John’s university who edify us Vincentians through how they live our mission.
I offer a word of gratitude to Father Joe Levesque, our homilist today. Father Levesque assumed the role of provincial after I was ordained 25 years ago. He was incredibly good to me and the other younger members of the Vincentians. We are blessed to have him at Niagara University. He was, and continues to be, a wonderful brother who has welcomed me to the Niagara family, a community marked by extraordinarily talented faculty, administrators and staff. Their commitment to excellence is matched by their love of our Catholic and Vincentian mission.
Finally, I thank all of you for being here to celebrate 25 years of ordained ministry. The priesthood is a gift meant to be shared; thank you for being such wonderful examples of faith in action.