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Alumni Priests Look Back

Alexia Ayuk, News and Special Projects Editor

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Although many of us chose Our Lady of Good Counsel High School because when we walked through the doors, we felt at home, it may still seem like a crazed thought that a single choice about high school can make an impact on our lives forever.

Reverend Robert Lawton ‘65 exclaimed “Oh boy!” after I asked how the Good Counsel education led him to discern his call to the priesthood. While a student, he became impressed by the example of the Brothers. He continued to detail how the Brothers were “instrumental” and “encouraging” in his call to the priesthood. Father Lawton even admitted that he “felt guilty about becoming a priest and not a Brother” because of the atmosphere at Good Counsel, but the Brothers encouraged him to follow his vocational call. He furthered that “Good Counsel imbued me with wanting to be the very best.”

“With the world in turmoil in the late 60s and 70s,” Father James Boccabella ‘71 remarked, “the leadership of the Brothers gave us a better sense of how we had to be different from the world.” The instruction from his Good Counsel education was that we have a higher calling than our earthly one. The ongoing conflict of the Vietnam War that had begun in the late 50s enabled his sense of social justice and spiritual calling. One of the lasting messages from the Xaverian Brothers at the time that persisted in his mind was “instead of society being a model for us, why don’t we be a model for society.” That beautiful declaration from the Brothers’ nearly fifty years ago about our role in the world is truer now than ever and echoed in the Good Counsel motto:  In today’s world, the loving, good person – even alone – can make a difference.

Father Mark Smith ‘83  noted the importance of chaplain Father Maury O’Connell who was “awesome” in aiding his religious fervor. He also revered the teachers for guiding him and his classmates on how to not just be themselves but their best selves. Additionally, Father Mark Smith stated that the Xaverian value of service was his favorite because he believes it is “essential for true happiness.”

Father Ronald Carrillo ‘67 had a different experience walking into Good Counsel than his other classmates because he had already been called to the priesthood at thirteen years old. He was in ministry with the Sons of the Holy Family. Still, he attested that half of the faculty being Xaverian Brothers helped lead him to grow closer to Christ because of one word: trust. “Trust,” Father Ronald Carrillo expressed, “because I trusted them, and they trusted me. If I could give any student advice, it would be to keep the faith and live the faith.”

Similarly, Father Kevin Fields ‘04, the homilist at the 60th-anniversary mass, also noted the importance of trust. He remarked, “ I think of God’s trust with a capital T and following God’s plan brings a taste of heaven to others.” A unique attribute about his Good Counsel education was the sense of community which presented “service as a way to experience God’s joy and a way to serve others.”

That same calling to serve others intrigued Deacon Daniel Kostka’s ‘72 want to be a priest because of the “environment of faith” that is Good Counsel. As he grew older, he felt that a deacon’s life was more fitting for him than the priesthood. The role embodied compassion to him because “for a deacon, a ministry of mercy and charity is part of the charisms of the call. The way I look at our relationship is that Jesus Christ was compassionate to others but hard on himself. He demanded his life of himself for our life and our salvation.” After a moment of pause, he asserted, “and that is the essence of compassion.”

With those finals words from Deacon Daniel Kostka, I was left to ponder what the essence of a Falcon is. When asked which Xaverian Value each of the Alumni clergymen most identified with, their answers varied in reasoning and choice value, but one word each of them continued to repeat through their explanations was community. There is a certain uniqueness to being a Falcon that is emulated in our spirit, kindness, service, and emphasis on living a life where we humbly try to be mirror’s of Christ’s image in the world. More importantly, we live lives dedicated to who we are called to be, and that is the essence of a Falcon.

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