St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"My bags were packed!"

Anon asked, “FG- It would be nice to have a brief bio on our clergy here at SAA. I don't know anything about our deacon, and I think most would find yours and Fr. Mike's backgrounds interesting. You are pretty good about speaking at Mass about your life both before you were a priest and now. For those who find it difficult to understand how a priest could relate to ‘normal’ life, it might be helpful to know about what jobs you all had before you were priests, or that Fr. Mike grew up with so many siblings. I know learning that about him made me feel more comfortable to speak with him about problems I might have with my kids, as I knew he'd probably have a wealth of personal experience upon which to draw. Just a thought....”

Thanks a lot, Anon!? I would prefer to post info about Fr. Mike and the deacons, but I haven’t asked them, so here’s mine. I don’t know how “interesting” this will be, but here goes. I actually do appreciate your interest in the clergy here – not so much in us the people, but in whom God calls to be his ordained ministers. I personally enjoy reading and hearing stories about men and women who answered the call to religious life, and to know the lives they led before they put their “hands to the plow” (Lk 9:62) to do the work of the Lord.

I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bethesda by my loving parents, George and Veronica Shaffer. I have two older siblings – sister, Kathy, and brother, Gerry. My father was a lawyer and mother was a homemaker (she later worked in personnel for Woodward and Lothrop and then National Library of Medicine). We lived in Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Bethesda, and I went to grades 1-8 in the school there. I graduated from Gonzaga High School in DC, and then the University of Maryland. I entered seminary immediately after UM (literally the next day), spending six years at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg before being ordained May 27, 2006, thanks be to God.

Ok, thanks for asking…

Oh, you probably want a little more than that. That was the "short version"…

I was a pretty happy-go-lucky kid, growing up in a fun and warm home. Everything was great until August, 1988. My father, who said on August 14 after coming back from the beach with my Mom that he had had the “most relaxing weekend” of his life, died suddenly the next day of a heart attack. It was a total and complete shock to us and to our parish community; he was a very popular and loved man. That event sent me reeling for a number of years as I ventured into the darkness of the party scene my senior year of high school and first two years of college.

In the summer of 1992, I was planning a move to California, basically to “start over”. I had been in conversation that summer with a girl I knew from high school. She was voted “Miss San Diego”, and she was inviting me to come out there. My bags were packed! I had been trying to transfer to Maryland (from Loyola College in Balt.) but had been waitlisted. My family and friends objected to my plan, but I kept reminding them that she was Miss San Diego!! Plus, I was looking for the ‘light’ that I thought I would find in California; I was in darkness...

Then, some funny stuff happened. I was accepted to Maryland, and started classes in the Fall of ’92. Also, I began to work as a volunteer with a buddy’s youth group at St. Mark’s in Hyattsville. That’s where everything turned around with regards to my faith. I finally began to hear the Gospel and the Church’s teachings (I went through 14 years of Catholic school with some type of deafness, I guess). I began to know Christ. I finally “got it” about the Eucharist. I began to spend long hours praying in his presence. I began to see that he is the light who pulled me out of the darkness. I began to hear Him calling me to the priesthood.

To be continued...


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