by Linda Caldwell
Pictured left to right, Father Christopher Dorsey, Bishop John Noonan, and Father Josh Swallows.
Looking back, Mary Dorsey, mother of newly ordained Father Christopher Dorsey, can see God’s hand in guiding her son to the priesthood. One of her most poignant memories occurred when Christopher was about four-years-old.
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“We went to Mass outside at Yosemite on Pentecost Sunday. It was a beautiful morning,” she said. “The priest told us to close our eyes while he did the Invocation of the Holy Spirit. We all had our eyes closed except for Christopher. He tugged on me and said, ‘Mommy, mommy, look over in the trees. There are little fires over in the trees.’ I looked, and I couldn’t see anything. I remember thinking, ‘Wow.’”
“And his first Mass (celebrated as a priest) will be Pentecost Sunday,” his father, Lee, chimed in.
Dorsey and fellow seminarian, Joshua Swallows, were ordained to the priesthood on May 23. On the eve of that joyous day, their families, friends, priests and many faithful gathered at St. James Cathedral for vespers, or evening prayer, part of the Liturgy of the Hours. During the prayerful event, Bishop John Noonan blessed the chalices that the men will use throughout their priestly ministry.
Mary said that while she did not realize it at the time, the signs of God’s calling in Chris’ life had always been there.
“There were all these little indicators that his faith was very much a part of him,” Mary said. “We are overjoyed and very excited for Chris. We are so proud of him. He has chosen to dedicate his life to the Lord and the Church and we could not be more proud.”
Todd Swallows, father of Father Joshua Swallows, said he vividly remembers the day his son expressed his decision to become a priest.
“I was out on a job site and he called me on the phone and said, ‘Dad, the calling has never left me,’” the elder Swallows recalled. “I said, ‘What are you waiting for?’ He signed up for seminary the very next day.”
Todd admits there was a time in Josh’s life when he wondered if his son would even remain in the faith.
“When it was time to be confirmed when he was 15, Josh said, ‘Dad, I don’t think I want to go to church there anymore,’” Todd said. “He did a lot of searching in his late teens and read about a lot of different religions. When he was in college, he went on a retreat. It was then that he got the calling to become a priest.”
“All we ever wanted for Josh was for him to be happy,” added his mother, Tina Wozneski. “Josh is a fisherman. I just gave him his gift, which was a chasuble with the fishes and loaves on it. On the outside of the gift, I wrote, ‘To my son, the fisher of men.’ He is truly a fisher of men.”
As they prepared for the next step in their faith journeys, Dorsey and Swallows listened intently to the words of Father Dominic Buckley, parochial vicar at Most Precious Blood Parish, who offered some “fatherly” advice.
“What God is calling us to be in the end is greater than ourselves,” he said. “To lay down your life is your grace; it is the gift you are being given tomorrow. The people of God are hungry for your love, for your affection, for your fatherhood, and for your presence. Even when it seems like you are not making a difference, whether it is a school event or ‘wasting time’ with the kids in the parish, it is in these moments that God’s love reaches hearts and souls, and we fulfill our mission to be a father.”