This is part of The Evangelist's ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their formation for the priesthood. Read previous installments under "specials" at www.evangelist.org.
This is part of The Evangelist's ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their formation for the priesthood. Read previous installments under "specials" at www.evangelist.org.
There is a common feeling among those who have just completed their final year of seminary: bittersweetness, as we pack up our things, say our goodbyes and approach the stage to receive our degrees, finalizing our time as students in seminary once and for all.

"The End" that we have all been waiting for, which seemed so far out of reach, is finally here. Some of the men know their assignments, while others wait in anticipation of where their respective bishops will assign them for the next few years as associate pastors.

Looking back, I cannot help but think, "Where did the time go?" It feels surreal that I am about to be ordained a priest - that, in this single moment where they called my name to approach the stage to receive my degree, my focus shifted from classwork and part-time ministry as a deacon on weekend loan to a life focused on a future of devotion to the people in the pews who have been praying for me all throughout my discernment.

In that single moment of ordination, my life will truly not be my own, but one that is fully dedicated to the needs of sick, the suffering, the needy, the hopeless and the hopeful who wish to encounter the Lord through me as a priest of Jesus Christ.

The only word that comes to mind to describe it is simply, "Wow!" How is this possible? The training in a formal setting is over; now, it's time to go out and learn, and train by doing.

I'll be hitting the ground running, with all the eagerness and anticipation I have had in following the Lord through discernment now transformed to a life of eagerly and anxiously hoping to truly be of service to another, day or night.

While I say my goodbyes, I cannot help but think of those who will come and fill my shoes and take my place here at the seminary. Without pretending to be overly humble about my upcoming ordination, there certainly is a need for us to now shift our focus from those about to be ordained to now praying for those that will be taking the next step in their own discernment.

We need to pray for and, especially, encourage those who will enter into some form of formal discernment, whether that be entering seminary, moving into the Diocese's house of discernment or simply making that first phone call to the vocations director.

As one reminiscing about that first step, I can remember clearly shaking with nerves while making that first phone call to Rev. Jim Walsh, who was then the vocation director. By dialing that number, my entire life and the direction in which I was headed changed.

However, each person who was rooting for me, whether it be family, friends or parishioners I hadn't even met, helped me to take the following steps of moving into the discernment house and then on to Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. I can tell you with absolute certainty that without that support, those prayers and encouragement from each person at home, I wouldn't be where I am today; nor would the person starting tomorrow go where you are helping lead them to.

So, with endless gratitude, I thank each of you for helping me on this journey toward saying "yes" to Christ -- and I hope that you will continue now, more than ever, encouraging the many others discerning their own vocation to priesthood, the diaconate, religious life and lay ministry, so that they, too, will say "yes" to Christ. God bless!

(Deacon Kelly is studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. A native of Newtonville, he was formerly business manager at Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes. He is scheduled to be ordained in June, along with Deacons Francis Vivacqua, Steve Matthews and Patrick Rice.)