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No Turning Back

Fr. Elmer P. Wurth, M.M.

My vocation to become a missionary priest is really quite easily explained and stems from principally three areas of encouragement that I received:

My family, but especially my mother with whom I was very close, was most supportive.? Neither parents nor four brothers and sisters suggested a vocation to me, but all did everything possible to support me in my decision.? Their deep support has been ongoing, and so even to the present, when I return to the U.S. for vacations, family weddings, funerals, etc; my brothers and sisters' families which now total nearly 100 people pretty much drop everything and have a big family gathering to spend time with me.

I grew up in a community where everyone was encouraged to think about a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.? In the first two generations of the 20th century, our parish of about 500 families produced 12 priests, 75 nuns and 4 Brothers.? Perhaps three or four of the Sisters left religious life, but all the priests and Brothers persevered.? Although the numbers declined, especially for Sisters after Vatican II, the parish has had four or five ordinations to the priesthood in the past 10 years.? Most of the girls joined the Sisters of Providence from Kentucky who taught in our elementary school, but several joined the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Sisters of Mercy.? Except for several diocesan priests, one Jesuit and myself, the others joined the Precious Blood Fathers who staffed the parish.? All four Brothers also joined the precious Blood Community.

I went to the local public high school and took part in all activities, as my parents were not in favor of my joining a seminary after elementary school.? It didn't matter, as I was not yet ready anyway.? It was at Notre Dame University in Indiana, a school with deep devotion to Mary, that my vocation blossomed.? While studying to be a coach and mathematics teacher, it became clear to me that God was calling me to work as a missioner in other cultures with a society dedicated to Mary, so I was interviewed, then joined Maryknoll.? As we had many vocations in those days, I studied in our seminaries in five states and then went to the University of Michigan and Loyola University in Chicago after ordination for a graduate degree in classical languages.? I had a happy seminary life and was always ready to return after my vacations with family and friends, so I never really looked back or had the slightest idea that I could do anything more worthwhile with my life.? I sometimes doubted whether my qualifications were adequate, but I never had the slightest doubt that God was calling me, so I moved ahead to ordination without any serious obstacles.? My teachers and superiors thought that I should be ordained and so I gladly accepted this honour and responsibility.? The past 43 years of priestly ministry have been very tranquil and enjoyable.? Would I do it again?? Of course I would.

My 43 years as a priest have had varied emphases: four years of seminary teaching, six years in the mountains of Taiwan, 13 years on development work in the U.S. which involved talks in schools, churches, military bases as the bigger audiences, as well as hundreds of talks to smaller groups.? I also interviewed candidates for Maryknoll and raised funds.? In general, we call this work public relations and mission promotion.? I have spent the past 20 years associated with The Holy Spirit Study Centre as one of its four founding members, while serving also as pastor of St. Anne's in Stanley for the past 11 years.

 

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