St. Philip Neri’s Father Fuller celebrated his birthday last month. Students of the school drafted letters with well wishes for the priest, but below the congratulatory sentiments, inquiries regarding the man’s life and call to the vocation were noted.
Father Fuller felt the need to visit classrooms to discuss and answer the questions of the young people. A list of all questions were printed off and according to class, Father addressed each question which allowed for open dialogue between the student and religious leader.
“Why did you become a priest?” “What is your favorite thing to do on your time off?” “How many people have you baptized?” “What is your favorite bible verse?”
The latter was answered by Father Fuller, “Matthew 28: 19-20, because of the end, ‘I am with you always.’ God is always present in our lives.”
Father continued reading down the list of questions answering his favorite hobbies, morning routines, challenges and rewards of being a priest, and notably the question, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” Father answered after a few seconds of thought, “I can’t think of anything that I want that I don’t already have now.”
It should be noted that at the 2014 meeting of the Bishops’ Conference in Baltimore, the entire presentation was devoted to the critical role of priests in the schools. Bishops were encouraged to be extremely vigilant in the assignment of priests to Catholic school work.
At the conference, Father Peter Stravinskas, director of the Catholic Education Foundation, called the priest’s involvement “a theology of presence.” This “doesn’t mean that every priest must be a classroom teacher,” he said. “But just being present, being with the students, in the schools, attending their sports events and social events—all of these are concrete modes of presence that have an impact.” For school communities, “the presence of the priest is an automatic invitation to spiritual assistance and Confession.” This benefits and catechizes students and faculty alike.
Moreover, the priest serves as “the principal leader responsible for proper presentation of the fullness of the faith” and helps to “assist the permeation of the curriculum with religious and moral values.”
We are proud at St. Philip Neri to have such an incredible priest and man of God to help lead our students in their spiritual growth.