Father Mike delivered this speech when he was honored at this year’s Augustinian Gala.
As I have grown older, I’ve learned more and more about how God points out the path for our life. As I look back, I marvel at so many graces given by God’s hand.
I remember the Augustinians that staffed my family parish at Saint Mary’s in Rockford Illinois. Father Bill Fink, O.S.A., was the prior of the small Augustinian community at the parish. He was old and pretty grumpy and these days I can understand why he was grumpy… I’ve learned that being old at times can make you grumpy! I remember Father Edwin J. "Ned" Crosby, O.S.A., who used to make me laugh… You never knew what Fr. Ed was going to do! He was a delight.
I remember Father Al Tierney, O.S.A., who was the pastor and very kindly. He was the priest that took a group of us from the parish school to visit the Augustinian novices in Oconomowoc. It was the first time I meet a religious who wasn’t over 50. When I came out, I thought all Augustinians were old men!
When I told my parents that I was thinking of becoming an Augustinian, my mother told me, “If you want to be a priest, then why not become a diocesan priest? You will stay in the Rockford area.” She arranged for me to attend a diocesan vocation retreat. When I got home from the retreat, she wanted to know if I would think about being a diocesan priest. She told me, “If you join the Augustinians, God only knows where they might send you!” She was right about that! But I went ahead and joined the Augustinians anyway.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived with my parents at Saint Augustine’s Minor Seminary in Holland, Michigan. There were three of us from Rockford among a mob of Southwest-side Chicagoans. High school’s a time of transition. On my first mailing home, I posted the address to my parents “Mr. & Mrs. Robert Slattery.” After that, one of my classmates tagged me with the name “Rob.” I had that for ten years or more! Everybody called me Rob – I began to forget what my real name was.
The classmates I met in Holland at St. Augustine over the years became more than just classmates but dear friends. There a lot here tonight. I am very thankful for these friends and companions that traveled with me through our years in seminary formation. Over the years, their friendship has been a wonderful gift.
I also am terribly thankful for all my family who have supported me and for all my brother Augustinians who had to put up with me. All in all, as I look back over the years at various parishes, in various ministries – and through all of that – it’s always been a wonderful experience. All I can say is that I am reminded of the title of the great old movie It's a Wonderful Life.
I am very happy to be here today. I’m very proud to be an Augustinian. I’m very proud of our Province and our men who have done so many wonderful things the Augustinians are about. I’m very happy, and I’m very blessed to be a part of such a great group.