Rev. Lawrence Decker has been the pastor at what's now St. Joseph's/St. Michael the Archangel/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Amsterdam for 25 years. Originally from Brooklyn, his path to the priesthood began early but held unexpected turns.

After high school, Father Decker attended Queen of the Apostles Seminary in Buffalo for two years, but decided it was not the right time to pursue his vocation.

He was then drafted into the Army and spent 11 months in Vietnam. There, he and other Christian soldiers spent their Sundays (when not in battle) reading from the New Testa-ment and reflecting on it. together

He returned to the U.S. in 1974, but it was another 10 years before he was ordained as a priest for the Albany Diocese.

After a brief time as a chaplain for Albany Medical Center, Father Decker finally arrived at then-Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish and has been there ever since.

When did you realize you wanted to become a priest?

In grammar school, around the fourth grade. I received both my First Communion and confirmation that year and I just felt tremendously loved by God and wanted to show Him I loved Him. The best way I could think to do that was by becoming a priest.

How did your parents react?

I first wanted to join the Trappists in my junior year of high school - so my parents were supportive, but they did say, 'Could you at least wait to finish high school?'

What would you have done differently?

Nothing; the priesthood was always the primary focus.

What's been the hardest part of your vocation?

Administration. I don't feel I was meant to be a boss or a CEO.

What's been the easiest?

The celebration of the Mass and the pastoral aspects; they never get old or tiring. Celebrating the sacraments energizes me, even visiting the sick.

Do you have a hobby?

One of my parishioners recently got me into gardening. I guess mostly I just like to 'putz.'

What is your favorite Bible story or Scripture passage?

John 6, the 'bread of life discourse.' John is so clearly pointing out the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith.

What do you do for fun?

I love the beach; during the summer I try to get there as much as I can. I also like to take walks around the Auriesville Shrine or the Rotterdam Kiwanis Park.

Has there been a time in your life that challenged or strengthened your faith?

Vietnam definitely challenged my faith but, in the end, only made it stronger. I became completely dependent on God.

What place gives you the greatest peace?

I feel God's presence the most in front of the Blessed Sacra-ment and in front of the ocean. That, to me, is a transcendent experience.

If you could dine with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

Pope John Paul II - he always fascinated me. I often wondered what he ate for the holidays: Was it Polish or Italian?

During the "Year for Priests," which concluded in June, The Evangelist began a continuing series of Q&A interviews with clergy, religious and laity.


Music: classical, jazz, soft rock

Performer: John Denver, Josh Groban

Movie: "I've seen 'The Polar Express' about six times"

TV: TV Land, BBC; "Law & Order"

Sports: "I'm not an avid fan, but of course I get excited about the World Series, especially if the Yankees are in it"

Meal: any Italian food ("Because anything tastes good")