Joseph Kirkconnell, who grew up in a church-going family and attended St. Ignatius school, recalls the reflective times over the years that culminated in his decision to join the priesthood.
One of four boys, Father Kirkconnell, 30, said his family was always highly involved in the church, but it was during his last year of high school, after the death of Msgr. John Meaney, that he felt a turning point. Msgr. Meaney, who died in 2002 in the Cayman Islands, had been regional director for the Pontifical Mission Aid Societies in the Caribbean.
“I was at the funeral. I was an altar server, and seeing that the church was completely packed and seeing how many lives he had touched and affected made me think about it [becoming a priest] more seriously,” he said.
“And going back before that, my mom had always told us to be open to it, if that’s God will, that’s what will make me happiest in life. From a very young age I’ve always had a great relationship with the Lord and I just have a desire to do his will. My parents have also been very involved my whole life in the church and they handed the faith onto me.”
At his ordination Saturday, he was officially welcomed into the priesthood by the Most Rev. Francis Reiss, Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Father Kirkconnell continued his studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, though he was still unsure of his path while at the Catholic university in the United States.
“I just wasn’t really happy doing the business classes. It didn’t feel like what I wanted to do. During college I was praying, and there was one time in particular I was praying on the campus there and I just had a sense, nothing extraordinary, but just a certain feeling,” he said.
“I didn’t know exactly where the Lord was leading me, but when I was graduating, I didn’t feel like it was the right time [to enter the priesthood].”
After graduation he attended the St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Delaware where he took classes in theology for two years before he applied to the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
As his ordination neared, he said, “I’m very excited. Everyone’s asking, you know, are you nervous and so on, but really I’m very much at peace,” Father Kirkconnell said.
“I know this is where the Lord wants me. The other very comforting thing is to know that I don’t have to do it myself, that the Lord is the One, since He has called me, that will give me the help and the grace to do whatever I need to do. I know a lot of people are praying for me too.”
Father Kirkconnell said while his three brothers are married and have started families, he is happy and at peace with his vocation.
“Sometimes people think when you make this promise of celibacy, not to be married, that somehow you are living without love, but God is love. You really develop a very intimate and deep friendship and relationship with the Lord and then you make that sacrifice in order to really serve the people better. You are more available,” he said.
“It’s very rewarding. Yes, there are sacrifices, but just like marriage, like any vocation, there’s sacrifice, and that’s where true love comes in – to give up yourself for another.”