Rev. Mr. Benjamin Fenlon to be Ordained to Priesthood on Wednesday12.19.23
Rev. Mr. Benjamin Fenlon will be ordained to the holy priesthood in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Wednesday (Dec. 20) evening at 6 p.m. Eastern at St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City. The ordination Mass will be live streamed here.
The below interview was originally published in The Catholic Key, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph’s magazine, and is re-published with permission below.
On December 20, Deacon Benjamin Fenlon will be ordained a priest in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. A native of England, Deacon Fenlon’s journey has taken him all over the world. We asked him about some of the key decision points along the way and lessons he can pass along to other men who are discerning the call to the priesthood.
Catholic Key: You have had a fascinating journey to this point — share what you would like about the major decision points you’ve encountered up to now:
Benjamin Fenlon: I did not, nor could not, ever have imagined that my life would look the way it does now. But I have left it in God’s hands, and he has made of it what he wanted. As a youth, desirous of a holy life, I read that the most pleasing prayer for him to hear was “let your will be done in me.” So I consciously offered that prayer up to him. With all my imperfection, and weighed down by the sins so common amongst the young, I could at least offer him a sincere desire to do his will. And I felt the calling to the priesthood bloom in my heart, as if it thundered down from heaven, from one moment to another.
I left home at the age of 17, to finish my studies in a religious community in Spain, called the Home of the Mother. At first, my intention was to return to England and to become a priest in my hometown, London. But after just a year in Spain I had fallen in love with the charism of the Home of the Mother, and from then on I could not imagine life apart from them. Eucharistic, Marian and with a missionary bent for the conversion of the youth, it was all I could ever want.
However, I had problems in the community. These problems were not scandalous, nor were they sinful on my part or on anyone else’s, but more had to do with my own personal development, a lack of peace, and unresolved tension. Ultimately, my superiors were unsure I was ready for the priesthood. At that time, perhaps they were right, I was not ready. I fear that some communities would have given up on me, but not the Home of the Mother. They worked with me tirelessly, trusting that God does not call those who are capable, but makes capable those whom he calls.
Several years later, I had discerned what had been unthinkable to me for the longest time: that I was not called to form part of the community that I so deeply loved. Their charism, joy and spirituality are deeply impressed on my soul, and they will always have a special and privileged place in my heart as the home in which I learned to love and serve God above all else, to die to myself and to live for Christ.
I had spent a year in Ecuador with the community by that time — I felt a profound love for that beautiful country and its wonderful people, and I discerned whether or not to return there, during my final year of theology in Rome. Eventually I decided to do so, and joined the Archdiocese of Guayaquil, where I was ordained a deacon. During my diaconate year in Ecuador, several events occurred that made it clear to me I could not stay there, and to my deepest dismay, I began to think about moving to another diocese.
CK: How did you choose the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to carry out your priestly ministry?
BF: My first thought was to move back to England, but upon writing to the Archdiocese of Westminster, it became apparent that their terms and conditions for accepting candidates did not correspond to my needs at all. Any attempt to integrate into that archdiocese would have been futile for them and for me. I had reached out to a friend from Rome, Father Nathan Rueb, without any serious belief that I could ever be accepted by his diocese. Divine irony would place him as my vocations director a little over a year later. He spoke to Bishop Johnston about my desire to move, and after receiving a letter from Bishop Johnston, I was convinced that I should move to Kansas City. Two details impressed me greatly; the first, he said that he was praying about my situation. It had been a long time since any superior had said that, and I immediately realized I could trust him. Secondly, his proposal for a trial period in Kansas City was very reasonable, and it safeguarded, in my estimation, the best interests of Guayaquil, of Kansas City and of myself. This was all I could ask for and hope for! I set about finding more about this diocese, Kansas City, which would soon give me so much, and to which I hope I can begin to repay with the good fruits of salvation of souls.
CK: What are you most looking forward to in becoming a priest?
BF: It is difficult to say that any one thing excites me more about the priesthood, but I am generally enthused and looking forward to most, if not all, aspects of priestly ministry. I bear a deep love for the prayer of the Roman Canon, said during Masses, and if anything, I am especially excited to pray it. Likewise, it will be especially impressive to sit down at the ‘throne of mercy,’ and to care for and tend to the pain and wounds of people who come to confess their sins to the Lord, should God give me the honor to hear confessions. For these people I am already praying.
CK: Do you have a saint or other religious figure that you have turned to in your preparation for the vocation of the priesthood?
BF: To prepare myself for the priesthood, I have prayed to many people, some canonized, some not, for help. They would be too many to enumerate — I feel a great devotion towards “All Saints,” and it is true that saintly figures, many of whom are not canonized, sometimes not even well known, have influenced me in a variety of ways throughout my life. We would do well to remember that the militia of saints in heaven is well armed, numerous and battle tested. Call on them often for help, advice and inspiration!
CK: Is there a specific Bible verse, part of scripture or other religious writing that has particularly sustained you during your preparation?
BF: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola have sustained me during my path to ordination, and I highly recommend them to anyone who seriously desires to become a saint. Whilst it can be hard to organize a three-, five-, or eight-day retreat when one must juggle work, children, and other responsibilities, any effort — even if it’s just a morning, or a weekend — will be graciously rewarded by the Lord. In my little experience, I have seen that during one day of Ignatian Exercises, done well, we can overcome difficulties that have hounded us for years.
CK: What advice would you give to men who believe they may be called to the priesthood?
BF: If you believe that God is calling you to the priesthood, then do not hesitate. There is no need to finish your university career, and definitely no need to start it. You have heard the call of the Lord in your heart. St. Peter dropped his nets, St. John left his father in the boat with the hired men, St. Matthew left his fortune on the tax-collectors table … would you not do the same?
Pray, pray, pray for the clarity and the strength to make this step. But do not just pray or stay inactive. Do it. Most of your worries and fears will be dissipated within the first week of seminary, and for the remainder, there are several years of study, retreat and prayer for you to prepare yourself. Through ordination, in his ministry the priest is an alter Christus, another Christ, and lives in union with Christ. The faithful people, who love God so dearly, cling to your words and sacrifice you offer as the only sure anchor to get them through the darkness of the world. And so many souls depend on your ‘yes’ for their eternal salvation! When I was a teenager, I was inspired to say these following words with my whole heart, and with them I found my own vocation. I invite you to say them out loud now, with a humble and sincere heart, as you finish reading this article: “Lord, may your will be done in me.” Amen to that!