Father Andrew St. Hilaire
Parochial Vicar, St. Francis Xavier Parish, Gettysburg, and
Campus Minister at Gettysburg College
From St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Mechanicsburg
St. Benedict Academy, Manchester, N.H.
Cumberland Valley High School
Catholic University of America
St. John’s Seminary in Massachusetts
Mount St. Mary’s Seminary
When did you first hear or consider the call to be a priest?
When I was five, I wanted to be a priest, according to some of the stories given by my parents. My reason at the age of five was kind of comical, because I thought priests were really cool because they dressed up as wizards at Mass. Also at the age of five, I thought girls had “cooties,” so I thought “No cooties and I get to dress up like a wizard!” This whole thing sounded cool to a five year old!
Apparently, I thought bishops were even cooler, because they had a hat and carried a stick. At a Vacation Bible School, the pastor asked, “Who wants to be a priest?” Everyone raised their hand except for me. The pastor said, “Andrew, why don’t you want to be a priest?” I said, “I want to be bishop. I want the hat and the stick!” He laughed and said, “You have to be a priest first, so raise your hand.”
I got a greater understanding of the priesthood naturally as I matured, and frankly it was something that just kept following me. I think the witness of many priests in my life who have been very generous, giving of themselves to community in service to God, and it was something that always was an attraction and I could never really shake it off. It was really an organic development for me and never disappeared until the conclusion that yes, this is really what the Lord is calling me to do. It was so logical that it would have been foolish for me to ignore it.
How has the support you’ve received from the people of the Diocese enabled you to focus on your formation for the priesthood?
As I’ve always told the people in the Diocese, we don’t just become priests for them, we become priests because of them. Through the support of the Pentecost Collection, we’re able to go to school and get the training we need to be good priests. We cannot go to seminary, if it wasn’t for their Pentecost Collection support. We can’t do what we do, we can’t train the way we’re able to train as priests, if it wasn’t for the collection.
I am exceptionally grateful to the Diocese for helping me get to this point. I wouldn’t be here without the Diocesan support. I’m very thankful for those who are making the sacrifice to contribute to the Pentecost Collection. I only ask that they would consider adding the sacrifice of prayer, to pray for all of us being ordained, that we will be good, holy priests for the people of this Diocese. The people of this Diocese deserve nothing less.
What have been your greatest joys in serving in diaconal ministry this past year?
The two sacramental components I’ve especially been able to do as deacon is preach in the form of the homily, proclaiming the Gospel, and also doing baptisms. Those two components have been particularly very rewarding for me. But also just recognizing the fact that ministry both humbles you, and also makes you realize how incredible God is. I’d been assigned to St. Francis in Gettysburg, and the community there is just wonderful. They’ve been very supportive, very affirming, very generous. The people have been supportive; they really just want your ministry of presence.
Your ordination was less than a year after the Grand Jury Report on sexual abuse by clergy. What impact has this had on your formation and desire to become a priest?
What you think would be a discouragement has actually become a source of intentionality. Hearing the news of the Grand Jury Report just made me much more intentional and focused, and frankly more intense about wanting to be a good priest, and wanting to regain that trust and respect.
In my case, I think the reaction has been just the same as everyone else’s has been: sadness, disappointment, frustration, anger, hope. Even my brother seminarians have spoken up, saying, “Many of us hadn’t even been born when those atrocious things occurred, but we can be part of the solution today.” I think it’s a very hopeful disposition, and it’s one that I take to heart. I may not have been alive during those problems, but I can be part of the solution today. That starts with how I am as a priest and how I conduct myself, and I how I lay down my life for those that the Lord has called me to serve.