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Coming Home to Answer Christ's Call

“It’s just all the Lord.”

Deacon Patrick Finn says he owes his vocation to God’s grace and providence.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” he says. “I tell people that providence is not just some pie-in-the-sky thing to talk about – ‘Oh, it’s God providence.’ - Well, it is.”

Although he has long felt a call to the priesthood, he says at points his life, he wondered whether it was meant to be.  Now ordained a transitional deacon, a key step in his journey, he sees God’s hand through it all.

“The Lord has given this gift, and I have received it,” he says. “I’ve been going to ordinations for ages for all these other guys, but now, it was my turn by God’s grace.”

Finn was ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Robert Deeley on October 8 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. Unlike permanent deacons, it is anticipated that transitional deacons will someday be ordained priests.

“We are grateful for the growing vocation in Patrick,” the bishop said during his homily. “Our joy this morning, in the ordination of Patrick, is grounded in our appreciation of the love God has shown him and all of us. It is the source of our hope. It is the foundation of our wish to serve.”

Deacon Finn describes his ordination as amazing, right from the start.

“I just love processions. It’s not unlike the groom coming out of the sacristy and seeing the bride walking down the aisle. It’s a different vocation, but that’s what I’m doing. I’m giving my life for the service of the Church here in Maine,” he says. “It’s been a long time in preparation, and just to see the whole people from all around the diocese, and from beyond also, it was just amazing.”

Deacon Finn is a native of Bath, where he attended St. Mary Church. He says his first thought of a priestly vocation came when he was in the fifth grade. He became a reader at Mass and started to take a greater interest in the church, receiving encouragement from Father Joseph McKenna, pastor at the time.

He says the parish had an active youth ministry, which played a significant role in his faith life.

“It was kind of the first experience of a Christian community outside the family,” he says.

He says his perception of the Church broadened by attending diocesan events such the youth convention and Winter Carnival, and his faith was enriched further at the Youth 2000 retreat and the Steubenville East summer youth conference, which he attended his sophomore year in high school.

“It was those events that really took me to a sacramental, liturgical Catholic faith.”

He says it was at the conference that he realized the power of the sacrament of reconciliation and at the Youth 2000 retreat that he first experienced eucharistic adoration.

“The eucharistic procession on Saturday night, it was like, ‘Can I really believe this, because this is fantastic.’ I think that was the beginning of a supernatural gift that the Lord gave,” he says.
He considered several different Catholic colleges, but when he visited Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, he instantly knew it was for him.

“I just loved it from the moment I came on campus,” he says.  “I really dove into the college campus culture there.”

The university has a priestly discernment program, but Deacon Finn says he didn’t immediately sign up. He says, however, he ended up with a roommate who was in the program, and he also participated in a prayer group with students who were in the program.  It was a comment from one of them that led him to take the next step.

“It was just one little offhand comment by one guy reflecting on the readings of that next day: ‘I think the Lord is just inviting us to trust in Him completely.’ And that kind of woke me up – that I didn’t have full trust in the Lord and that taking this step and actually entering the program would make sense,” he says.

He decided to explore becoming a religious order priest after hearing a reflection on the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  When he earned his degree in theology, he entered formation with the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular at their motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania. In 2008, he professed first vows, then continued his formation at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He says his pastoral assignments while there gave him a breadth of experiences. He led a confirmation class at a parish in Baltimore, Maryland, and remembers the inspirational Gospel choir.  He served at a nursing home where he spent time with retired priests. He was a chaplain to the Teams of Our Lady, a Christian movement for married couples. He served on a Yankton-Sioux reservation in South Dakota. He was a chaplain at a trauma hospital in Tampa, Florida.

“I had so many awesome opportunities as a friar, and I learned and experienced so much that I never could have gotten elsewhere,” he says.

Finn, however, discovered that it was not to be his path.

“God made it clear that this particular community wasn’t where I needed to be,” he says.

He left formation and became communications director for the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington, D.C., where he had once interned. After 14 months, he was excited to receive a job offer that would allow him to return home. He became director of faith formation for Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston.

He says being in Maine and being surrounded by several longtime priest friends, as well as assisting Father Seamus Griesbach, the diocese’s director of the Office of Vocations, led him back to the priesthood.

“A positive thing that finally got me to submit the application was helping with some of Father Seamus’ vocation retreats, especially for high schoolers, and just seeing the culture of vocations that has been able to be built,” he says. “We can get defeatist, and I did. ‘Oh, there are not going to be any young people who want to go in seminary.’ But, try to think that way when you go on one of these weekends with these guys ice fishing on some lake and praying their hearts out. It was very impressive and very encouraging to me.”

Accepted as a diocesan seminarian, Finn completed two additional years of study at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. He says when he got the letter from the bishop telling him that he had been accepted for holy orders and would be ordained a transitional deacon, he could hardly believe it.

“It’s just been a totally providential but long road,” he says.

Deacon Finn says what he is most looking forward to is preaching the word of God.

“It’s the Lord ministry that I have been entrusted with,” he says. “The Lord invites us to relationship with him, and that I see as my big mission – just to preach that the Lord is present and wants us to love him back.”

Deacon Finn is serving at the Parish of the Holy Eucharist in Falmouth.