MOUNT PLEASANT – With a year and a half of parish life behind him, Father Gregory Wilson, looks at a wonderful life.
Ordained in June 2001, the parochial vicar of Christ Our King quickly learned one thing.
“There’s an awful lot seminary can’t teach you simply because pastoral work is hands-on experience and learning from others,” he said.
But there is no question about his attitude.
“It has been more wonderful than I ever expected just being an instrument of God as a priest,” he effused. “I knew it was going to be great, but I didn’t realize it was going to be this wonderful.”
In times when the media is saturated with stories of clergy sex abuse, and the atmosphere for the priesthood is rife with pain, this new priest’s attitude can inspire the laity.
In a large parish like Christ Our King, Father Wilson has already experienced the range of roles he has played in his flock’s lives – from birth to death.
“I just baptized the baby of a couple I married last year,” he said.
His most difficult task, however, has not been dealing with issues of life and death, but the celebration of the Mass.
“You can be prepared for doing it, but you can’t explain what it is like to someone who has not done it,” he said.
So enthusiastic is he that this former Methodist used to find it hard to believe he was a priest.
“I have become more and more comfortable with it,” he explained. “My two favorite aspects are the celebration of Mass because the Eucharist is central to my conversion and confession. In confession people are coming back to God and it is an incredible grace to be an instrument of God to bring them back to him.”
Wearing his clerics has not been a difficult adjustment.
“It’s not just uniform, it’s an outward sign of the interior consecration,” he said. “It keeps me mindful of that. They remind me just as much as anybody who sees it.”
His greatest challenge as a priest so far? Paperwork.
What is his advice for seminarians?
“Read and study everything,” he said. “I did a lot but I could have done more. You need every bit of it. I’ve had to explain everything I have learned from the sacraments to the trinity.”
Father Wilson, who holds a degree in scripture, has also spent his time teaching. He has given lectures and participated in discussions on the faith and the Gospel both at the church and at the Pauline Books and Media store in Charleston. He is getting ready to offer discussions on apologetics.
“I will be going through the faith and explaining where it comes from,” he said. “I want to help people feel confident in their faith. It was given by Jesus Christ. If you are going to look for a biblical faith, it’s the Catholic faith.”
The busy priest agreed to the interview with The Miscellany between visits to patients at area hospitals. When he burns the candle at both ends, he prays.
“Nothing can replace prayer,” he said. “I can always tell when I have not been praying as fully as I should. There’s something about being in dialogue with God, especially the Divine Office that’s important.”
Another constant in his life is a devotion to Mary, the mother of God.
“It began in seventh grade,” he said. “We took a trip to Magnolia Gardens, and they have a biblical garden. There was a statue of Mary there, and I took a picture and kept it in the front of my Bible. She was like my Catholic mother.”
He still has that picture; it’s placed on the first page of a scrapbook he keeps for religious pilgrimages. It marks the path of many blessed journeys to come.