February 4, 2020
By Fr. John Killackey, FSSP
It is often difficult to pin down one event or person responsible for a vocation. The many puzzle pieces of life, some big and some small, used by the delicate but firm hand of Providence need to be taken together to map out—as far as our limited minds can—what God had in store for us all along. My path to the priesthood was no different, and there are many people to whom I am indebted. But there are some pieces which are more significant than others, and the biggest influence was my family.
I was blessed to be born into a loving family in Wayne, New Jersey with parents who really took the Faith seriously. I remember every year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception my mother would bring me and my three siblings to a statue of Our Lady and consecrate us to her. We later began to say the family Rosary every night, which of course further helped cement our devotion to Our Blessed Mother. Also, we would often go down to a local adoration chapel, and there, in the Presence of Our Lord, I began to learn better how to pray and to silence myself in His presence.
For all these practices, however, I had no desire to consider the priesthood at first. The life seemed “boring” to me, and other things distracted me from looking honestly at the question. This started to change gradually after we started attending Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, the FSSP’s apostolate in Pequannock, NJ. I remember at first disliking the whole thing, since I didn’t understand it. But we soon found ourselves going there more and more often because of the availability of Mass and confessions every day. Soon my brother and I began altar serving, and I began to love the Traditional liturgy more and more, and to see it as a beautiful expression of the Catholic Faith. I will always remember the first Sung Mass my brother and I served, which was the Easter Vigil. The reverence, incense, Gregorian Chant and symmetry of it all left me with a faint taste of what the grandeur of God must be like. In addition to this experience, the increased interactions with the priests of the Fraternity helped replace the shallow idea I had of the priest’s life with an idea of a life that was intensely identified with Our Lord, and was also well balanced: little did I know that a formidable mental hurtle had been overcome when, in early high school, we started playing regular Sunday soccer with the priests after Mass!
Before I knew it, I had a strong conviction that God wanted me at least to try the seminary, and I never thought of anywhere else than with the Fraternity, which had provided me with many good examples of the priesthood. But I was not completely ready at the end of high school. I went to Christendom College, worked a year as a teacher at a Catholic school and then felt that the time had come to apply. I entered Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in the fall of 2012.
My seminary formation, in many ways, was another beginning to my vocation. It had its good and bad days as God purified any imperfect ideas I had of being a priest. Despite my faults, however, I always felt confident at the end of each year that Our Lord wished me to stay. I was blessed with great confreres and diligent seminary formators, and I am grateful to them for their direction and sacrifices. After seven years, by the grace of God, I was ordained a priest and stationed at Mater Dei, our apostolate in Harrisburg, PA, which has been a wonderful experience. I ask for prayers that I may be faithful to the graces that God gives us each day to be His saints. +