Father Joshua Weaver
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine Labouré Parish, Harrisburg
Chaplain at Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg
From St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg
Trinity High School
Mount St. Mary’s University
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
When did you first hear or consider the call to be a priest?
It really took off in college. I met this girl who was really awesome, and as I was going out with her, she was very involved in her faith. I knew that the best way to be the best boyfriend possible was that I would need to fall in love with Christ in order to be a better boyfriend and, if God willed it, a better husband for her. I committed myself to really try to grow in my faith. She and I went to daily Mass together, we prayed together, we talked about the faith together. We really pushed each other to grow in virtue and grow in relationship with Christ. It was through that relationship of growing closer to Christ – initially motivated by her – that when he eventually did call and started speaking to me to tell me that he wanted me to enter the seminary, I was actually able to hear it.
How did you handle such a dramatic change, from considering marriage and a teaching career, to entering seminary?
I definitely had more prayer and discernment, and I totally went kicking and screaming, in a spiritual sense. I was super happy dating this girl. I thought that she had a chance to be the person God was calling me to marry. I didn’t want to leave. I was probably the happiest I had ever been in my life…. The last thing I wanted to do was to let her go, but God was persistent. It almost seems like any time I heard in the Gospel something about following Christ, taking up a cross or leaving everything behind and following him, that was the image that kept popping into my mind. I couldn’t shake it.
Eventually, I did spiritual exercises, kind of imaginative prayer. I always called them a “holy fantasy,” so to speak. What I would do for a week in my prayer was imagine my life as a married person, my ideal life: finishing my degree, getting married, having x amount of kids, doing this with my life, doing that with my life. And then at the end of my life, being on my deathbed surrounded by my loved ones ushering me to heaven. I would go a step further and I would get to the pearly gates and I would see God and we would talk about my life and I how I lived it. I would do that as a married person, and I would do that as a priest, hoping that maybe I could get some clarity and see what my heart would be leaning toward.
Every time in that fantasy as a priest, I could never look Jesus in the eye and tell him everything. I would get to heaven and tell him, “Lord, I gave you everything, except her, or except this or except that.” When I would imagine myself as a priest…I would talk to God and say, “Lord, I don’t know if I was that successful, I don’t know if I did that well, but I gave it everything I had.” I realized no matter how I would live my married life, no matter how much service I did, no matter much good I did or how I great I was in my imagination, I could never look God in the eye and tell him that I completely trusted him and gave him my entire heart. At that point in my life, as a sophomore in college, the only way that I felt I could do that was enter the seminary and be a priest.
What are you most looking forward to as a priest?
The thing I’m looking forward to most is being a spiritual father and everything that entails. It’s the sacraments, bringing Christ to people in a very real way. I’m looking forward to hearing Confessions. I’ve been the beneficiary of the sacrament probably thousands of times at this point. To be on the other side of the screen and speaking the words of Absolution so the person can know that they are forgiven of their sins gives me chills to think about. I’m excited for the Anointing of the Sick, to be able to be potentially at someone’s deathbed as they pass from this life to the next. Even the little things. Do people even know that their priests love them, and that we care? I’m looking forward to going to school events, to basketball games, to plays, to dance recitals. Yes, I’m a priest, but I’m not just present in the church on Sundays. I’m looking to be a spiritual father and to be part of people’s lives and to love them.