Rhett Williams will move a big step closer to the priesthood when he is ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 26 at St. Joseph Church in Columbia.
After his ordination, he will be allowed to give homilies, proclaim the Gospel, baptize, assist during the liturgy and witness a marriage outside Mass. The Charleston native said he is especially excited about assisting at Mass and preaching.
He is completing his third year of theology at the Theological College at Catholic University of America. This year, his classes included biomedical ethics, philosophy, homiletics (preaching), pastoral counseling, and classes on leadership and Christian marriage and family. He enjoyed learning how to deliver a good homily.
“I always find preaching very exciting,” he said. “My classmates in Washington, D.C., sometimes laugh at me a little bit because when I preach, a little bit of ‘Southern preacher’ style comes out. That’s because I get excited about preaching. I love it.”
He found the course on pastoral counseling particularly challenging because students would have to role play different situations and figure out how to help people who come to priests with a wide array of problems.
“We learned how to listen, how to get past ourselves and realize it’s not about us,” Williams said. “We were given tools to help us better learn about ourselves and about others.”
He said leadership studies are important because it helps seminarians use a different part of the brain.
“Essentially, as priests we are going to be running small businesses if we lead a parish, so it’s important to learn leadership,” he said.
For his pastoral assignment, this year he worked at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, teaching religious education classes in English and Spanish and helping groups of pilgrims who visit from all over the world.
He also met with a spiritual director every two weeks and attended days of recollection and two silent retreats. In his off time, Williams said he enjoyed playing intramural sports at the seminary, including baseball and basketball.
He is more than ready for the challenges that await him as a transitional deacon.
“I am very, very excited,” he said. “I’m 32 years old and I have been in school a long time. This is my fifth year of seminary and now I’m really looking forward to serving the people of God as a deacon, and then after that, God willing, as a priest.”
After his ordination, Williams will spend the summer serving at St. Michael Church in Murrells Inlet.
Photo provided: Rhett Williams, right, and fellow seminarian Will Frei prepare to serve at the funeral Mass of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on Feb. 20, 2016.