WINNSBORO—Father David A. Pignato knows the important decisions a man has to make on the path to the priesthood. He is a Harvard Law School graduate who spent a year as an attorney before starting seminary.
“We need to understand vocations in general as God’s will, as a decision made for us long before we decide to answer the call,” he said.
Father Pignato spoke to a group of nine men, who are considering a future in the priesthood, at White Oak Conference Center May 13-15.
He told them God uses religious vocations to bring people to salvation through Christ.
“God is offering salvation, and he is asking for our free will to cooperate with that plan of salvation,” he said. “If nothing were at stake, there wouldn’t be a need for the priesthood … Catholic priests remind the world of eternal life, because the world wants us to think this life is all there is.”
Father Pignato was ordained in 2001 and earned a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical North American College in Rome with a thesis on church-state relations. He now teaches theology and Christology at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., and is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River in Massachusetts.
Many people do not understand the priestly vow of celibacy, he said. By sacrificing the chance to have a wife and children, priests show a commitment to values and truths that go beyond the material world.
“I think people intuitively grasp that the only reason to do this, to make this vow, is because there’s something beyond this life,” he said. “A priest doesn’t belong to anyone here because he knows and belongs to something that is eternal. A priest is an ambassador of Christ in a world that does a good job of trying to pull people off the path. The priest reminds people of the way we were sown to find true happiness.”
Father Pignato reminded the men of the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said Catholic priests are chosen by God to change the world.
“Human life itself is our job,” he said, and every time a priest celebrates Mass, “he’s changing the world. He brings God’s mercy and the word of God to the world.”
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone exemplified this on May 14 when he celebrated Mass and met with the group for a question-and-answer session.
Members of the discernment retreat ranged in age from 18 to 44 and came from Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Greenville, according to Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, vicar for vocations for the Diocese of Charleston.