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From the Stage to the Seminary: By Katie ’17 and Maggie ’17 Kennon

 

From the stage to the seminary, Michael, “Mickey,” Connolly has had experience on the field playing football, on the stage as an actor, but finally found his calling on the altar. However, the Kennedy Catholic graduate from the class of 2010 has not always known or accepted God’s plan for him. In this article, Mickey shares his journey that led him to accept God’s call to the priesthood.

 

Since Mickey is a KCHS alumnus, we asked him what his favorite part of Kennedy was. Having been a thespian, Mickey shared he loved performing in Kennedy musicals. 

Father Michael Connolly

I honestly loved everything about being at Kennedy. I felt like I was part of a family; I really felt at home in school. The absolute best part for me, though, was performing in the school musicals. I learned so much through Kennedy’s musical theatre program. I learned about singing, acting and dancing. I also learned about myself. I found performing to be a real passion of mine, and I gained so much confidence from my experience with theatre at Kennedy. I also learned that a person can’t be defined by any one thing. I didn’t audition for the school musical in my freshman year because I was on the football team and had the mistaken notion that a person couldn’t be involved in sports and the arts. The next year, though, after having seen how amazing the show was freshman year (Seussical the Musical) and how much fun my friends all had putting it on, I had to try. So, I auditioned for Footloose and had the time of my life! That experience gave me the confidence to branch out, and I started performing at Yorktown Stage as well as a few other places. Despite my freshman-year fears, a lot of my teammates came to the school shows and were very supportive! I will never forget performing in Footloose, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Fiddler on the Roof when I was at Kennedy.

 

We asked Mickey when and how he realized he was being called to be a priest.

Mickey as he was called in high school, was a member of the football and track teams.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a sense that God might be calling me to become a priest. I have been very fortunate to grow up with just about all the right elements in place for me to listen for God’s voice telling me what He is calling me to be. My parents have a beautiful marriage, an excellent example of what it means to give your life completely for someone else. I have always had amazing parish priests who have shown me what it means for a man to give his life completely for the Church. I have also grown up with two incredibly supportive brothers. My brother John has had a very special influence on my faith, let alone my discernment of the call to priesthood. My brother John has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He has had to suffer so much throughout his life, but he has done it with the utmost humility and joy. He has really shown me a glimpse of the suffering of Jesus, endured joyfully and with love. So, all the pieces have been in place for me to ask God, “What do you want me to do?” He has shown me in various ways over the years that the answer is priesthood. I have not always been faithful to Him, though. Many times, I have strayed from the close, personal relationship He so desires to have with each of us. I have, at many times, sought happiness and fulfillment in worldly things, my own plans, ignoring God’s plan. Eventually, though, in my junior year in college, I just felt too empty, too lonely to continue living so selfishly. God mercifully called out to me again and set me back on the right path. I really felt His love completely fill me up, and I vowed I would live for Him again and stop living for myself. He showed me that He was still calling me to be a priest, and I entered college seminary that year! I am now at the end of my third year at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, about to begin my final year of seminary formation.

 

Because Mickey mentioned that his family inspired and encouraged him to enter the seminary, we asked him to tell us more about them.

Michael, pictured with his parents at his college graduation from Fordham University

I have such a wonderful family. My mom and dad have been married for thirty years. They are a beautiful example of the gift of marriage in a current social climate which is very hostile to marriage or really, any kind of commitment. I have two brothers, John and Brian. John is the oldest. As I mentioned before, he was born with cerebral palsy. He has always been and continues to be a great inspiration to me. Brian is the youngest. He has also been a huge inspiration to me. Not only did he earn a college scholarship to play football at Bucknell University, but his perseverance through his career ending shoulder injury has taught me a great deal about patience and fortitude. My brothers are my best friends!

 

 

We wanted to know if there was anyone who influenced or inspired Mickey more than others. He told us about Father Dunn, who, like Mickey’s brother John, is wheelchair-bound.

Michael, pictured with Father Dunn

So many people have inspired me, but the biggest influence I have had is a priest named Fr. Dunn. Fr. Dunn was at my home parish, St. Augustine’s in Ossining, for eleven years. He has always been the most joyful priest I know. As a kid, I was always so attracted to and inspired by Fr. Dunn’s preaching. Fr. Dunn is a master at preaching an incredibly intelligent, spiritually enriching homily which is also bursting with his own unique sense of humor. Fr. Dunn taught me that it is possible to preach an edifying homily using references to The Simpsons! Fr. Dunn has always been there for me. He has been a spiritual father and a true friend. He has always supported me in discerning my vocation without ever making me feel pressured to consider priesthood. Furthermore, despite his Multiple Sclerosis rendering him wheelchair-bound, Fr. Dunn’s enduring joy continues to inspire me to accept whatever cross God gives me with humility and humor. Fr. Dunn continues to be my biggest priestly inspiration and one of my best friends.

 

 

On the flip side, we wondered if there was anyone who tried to influence Mickey not to become a priest.

Thanks be to God, no! No one has tried to dissuade me from pursuing the priesthood.

 

Next, we wanted to know what Mickey felt now that he has entered the seminary. What really interested us was what was Mickey’s favorite part of the seminary.

Michael, pictured with his brothers

I have been really grateful for the relationships I have developed since entering seminary. I have made some really great friendships with other seminarians, priests, and parishioners in different parishes. Ultimately, the best part, is that they have all helped me to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

 

 

 

 

After learning his favorite part of the seminary, we were intrigued as to Mickey’s least favorite part of the seminary, so we asked Mickey what he has found to be the most challenging aspect of becoming a priest.

Being patient! It has been so exciting to be in formation for the priesthood. With each year in seminary I am getting more and more excited to be ordained and get out there in a parish as a priest. It has been very difficult to be patient as I go through the formation process. Some very wise priests have been helping me to slow down and accept every day, appreciating every moment of the process as the gift it is!

 

Knowing that it can’t be easy to dedicate your life to service of God and others, we asked Mickey if he ever regretted his decision to become a priest.

Not once! Seminary formation is not easy, but I have not had a single regret about entering. I truly believe that God is calling me to be a priest, and I am so grateful. I have never been more joyful than I have since I entered seminary.

 

Even though we just established that Mickey, since entering the seminary, never considered becoming anything other than a priest, we were still interested to know what he thinks he would be doing now if he hadn’t entered the seminary.

Teaching at Kennedy!…assuming Fr. Vaillancourt would hire me, of course! I would be a teacher. I’m not sure where exactly, but, before seminary, I was working towards a Master of Science in Education degree at Fordham University. I would have loved to teach at the elementary level, or be a Spanish or music teacher at the high school level. God-willing, as a priest, I can do a little of all of that!

 

 

 

 

 

We are very grateful and appreciative to Mickey for giving such thoughtful responses to our questions, but we felt we would be remiss if we did not ask him for advice for anyone discerning the priesthood.

Be open to whatever surprises God will throw your way! Discernment of one’s vocation is a journey, especially discernment of the priesthood. God will surprise you! You will learn so much about yourself on the way. Be open to it, and let go of any expectations you have of how it should go. I’m working on this myself- it’s easier said than done! But God is always there to help us.

 

Mickey told us he is in his fourth and final year at St. Joseph’s, so his journey from the seminary to the priesthood is almost finished. Being parishioners and altar servers at the same parish as Mickey, we are lucky enough to be able to see his faith and devotion to his calling almost every week at Mass. Being so devoted to Christ, Mickey is an inspiration to everyone. We are all excited to learn where God will send him next year after his graduation and ordination into the priesthood!

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