| By Father John Howell

Father Jonathan Howell

Parochial Vicar of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Birmingham and Chaplain of John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham

I recently celebrated my third anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. As I completed three years at Holy Spirit Church and at St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Huntsville, I’ve had some time to reflect on the gift of the priesthood. These last three years have been the happiest of my life, and they have been proof for me that Jesus keeps His promises. Every time I am tempted to discouragement because of human problems or my own weakness, I’m always reminded of the surpassing grace of God.

At the beginning of my second semester in seminary when I was seriously considering leaving, a priest encouraged me to give God a full year of discernment in seminary telling me, “God is never outdone in generosity.” I think of those words a lot, especially in the last days of my assignment in Huntsville, where I was overwhelmed by the goodness and love of the people I had served.

Pope Francis likes to remind us that “God is a God of surprises.” I can identify with that as well. When I first entered seminary, I was not expecting to be working one day as a priest with immigrant communities. Today, at least half of my work is in Spanish with people from many different countries. It has opened my heart and enriched my priesthood. God has not been outdone in generosity.

Priests are just as human as anyone else, even as they administer the Sacred Mysteries. I’m grateful, therefore, for all your prayers which brought me through seminary and these first three years. May the Lord keep us all faithful and bring us to eternal life.