Father James J. Ronan Pilot file photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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Parish/Assignment: Pastor, St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena, Charlestown
Place of birth: Boston
How many brothers and sisters do you have? 4
High school: St. John’s Prep - Danvers
Undergraduate: University of New England - B.A.
Graduate 1: Boston College - Med.
Graduate 2: Boston College - Ph.D.
Seminary (Theology): St. John’s Seminary - MDiv
Date of ordination: June 5, 1982
What assignments have you had since ordination?
1982-1988 Immaculate Conception, Malden-Medford; 1988-94 St. James Society - Guayaquil, Ecuador; 1994-1999 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) - Executive Director, Secretariat for the Church in Latin America; 1999-2004 Holy Rosary Parish, Lawrence/St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter and St. Paul/Corpus Christi; 2004-present St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena, Charlestown.
What have been some of the greatest joys for you as a priest?
Ministering to people in Latin America, celebrating the Eucharist in all kinds of places and situations, being of service to people, helping young people grow in their faith. In truth, this question is difficult for me, for there is little I do as a priest that does not bring me joy.
Who influenced your vocation most to consider the priesthood?
While I cannot point to a specific person or situation, I realize that growing up in a strong Catholic family and with parents who loved and practiced their faith so openly and devoutly had a profound influence to me. Being blessed with a Catholic education, I was surrounded by the faith at so many critical stages of my life as well. Many good people and faithful communities all contributed to my being able to discern the call to priesthood.
What events or practices in your life helped you to discover and discern your call to the priesthood?
I was blessed with a good spiritual director in those turbulent days of discerning. Along with that relationship, attending Mass was the central core of my growth.
What is one of your favorite Scripture passages and why?
Matthew 25: Shockingly wonderful evidence of God’s love for and presence for all especially when we are most poor and needy. John 15: The depth of Jesus’ love as manifest in these scenes is enduring and always calling.
What are some of your hobbies?
Reading, walking, sailing, spending time with friends and family and my dog!
What advice would you give to a young man who is considering the priesthood?
Don’t hesitate to ask Mary to lead you to her son and to the truth of your calling. She will never disappoint.
What are some of your favorite books/ spiritual reading/magazines?
America, Commonweal, Tablet, Church, Gustavo Gutierrez.
Through the cardinal, God is calling each of us personally to help rebuild his Church. How must the priest respond to this mandate today?
We need a blend of both faithfulness to the old as well as courage to face the new. Most of the time, I think we are OK on the old, but frightened and apprehensive of the new. The Church needs to change to remain true to who she is -- to be more accessible, welcoming, available and open. More and more our gifted and eager laity need to be invited into the center of the life and the management of the parish and the Church. One of the many obstacles is secrecy and clericalism. With God’s help and the gift of God’s loving Spirit, we can become free for these and ever more trusting in the Spirit to lead our Church in Boston to a new century of growth and life.
When Cardinal Seán came to Boston, he wrote a pastoral letter entitled: “Vocations: Everybody’s Business.” What are some ways that we can help all individuals and families understand their role in promoting and supporting vocations?
For a parish and a church community to be welcoming seems to be the starting point. The welcoming about which I speak is not just a lip service but rather a profound inner conversion of really wanting to welcome all into a parish assembly. This is done in little ways as well as big ways. The spirit can pervade a community and when that happens, people, so hungry for belonging and being a part of a community, come. When a community strives for this kind of environment, this kind of definition of “Church,” it may just happen that vocations will emerge. Obviously this is just one small element that appears to me as something we can do in our communities to foster vocations. There are many other things as well.