David Perry earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Mercyhurst College, Erie, in 1996. He also studied philosophy at Erie’s 1 University. He is an alumnus of Washington High and John F. Kennedy Elementary School, both in Washington, Pa. Born in Washington, Pa., July 1, 1974, he is the son of David and Judy Perry of Washington.
By Deacon David PerryFor the Lake Shore Visitor
This article appeared in the Friday, May 4, 2001 Lake Shore Visitor, diocesan newspaper in Erie.
The realization of a possible call to the priesthood has always been stirring in the inner depths of my heart from a very young age.
I was fortunate enough to come from a very loving and stable family and to have the experiences of a Catholic education. In my hometown of Washington, Pa., wonderfully loving and dedicated men and women who committed themselves to the priesthood and religious life surrounded me.
I can remember, while attending my home parish of Immaculate Conception’s grade school, John F. Kennedy, the influential presence of Sister Helena McCormick and Father John Bauer.
I would often arrive a half-hour before the school would open because of my parents’ work schedule. Sister Helena and Father Bauer would always be there in the office getting ready to start the day, having just returned from morning Mass. Most of the time they would invite me in to say hello or even share a doughnut and some orange juice.
They also both asked me to help out around the church or the school with various projects. I always felt welcome in the presence of these two spirited individuals and they left a positive impression with me about the need for service to others.
The need to serve others became more apparent to me as I got older, left home and attended Mercyhurst College in Erie. As with anyone leaving home for the first time, my eyes were opened to a number of new experiences and a wonderful diversity of people.
But with these new life events came some moments of sadness. I started to learn that many of my peers experienced much brokenness in their lives. The brokenness that they were experiencing from family, relationships and life choices made me pause and reevaluate my priorities. I discovered that I was not alone in facing problems and that life wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I also started to ponder questions of faith and God. I began to become involved in campus ministry and it was there that I encountered the loving presence of Father Stephen Anderson and Mercy Sister Catherine Anne Mesanko. These two individuals, much like Father Bauer and Sister Helena from my grade school days, presented a well-rounded and positive image of the religious vocation.It was during my junior year of college that I seriously thought about the priesthood as a possibility in my life. I was already on track to graduate with a degree in business, but the inner stirrings of my heart would not stay quiet.Fortunately, I had someone to talk with in the person of college chaplain Father Anderson. He was a good listener and encouraged me to pray and “take to the Lord” all of my wondering about a possible call.
Through Father Anderson, Sister Catherine Anne and many other wonderful students who hung out at the campus ministry office, I was blessed to have had a nurturing environment to explore the possibility of a call to priesthood.
While it’s true that a few people, whom I considered to be friends, thought I was foolish to pursue this possible avenue in my life, the overwhelming majority respected my decision.
With the support and encouragement of my family, I entered the seminary for the Diocese of Erie in the fall of 1996. There have been plenty of ups and downs since then. I have had the privilege to meet many wonderful people and share in their joys and sufferings. And I think that is really what priesthood is all about.
I believe that priesthood, at its core, is simply being available to people. All four Gospels give us clues that Jesus lived his life among others. Jesus traveled the area of Galilee and Jerusalem, stopping at people’s homes and villages to spread the good news of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus often freed people from their attachment to guilt or shame simply by taking the time to remind them how important they are in the eyes of his Father.
That is exactly what a priest is called to do: remind people how precious they are in the sight of God, lead them to a greater awareness of how much Jesus loves them — even in the midst of brokenness and adversity — and communicate to them that they are not alone in their struggles.