By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Want an introduction to the four newest priests in our Diocese?
It’ll only take about a minute!
Four new videos, featuring short interviews with the young men ordained in June by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., are premiering this month on a variety of Diocese of Trenton social media platforms. The videos, ranging in length from 1:12 to 1:55 minutes, introduce Father Christopher J. Dayton, Father Michael G. DeSaye, Father Nicholas R. Dolan and Father James R. Smith to their new flocks and the entire diocesan family of faith during four individual, far-reaching conversations filmed by the diocesan Department of Multimedia Production.
The interviews, conducted while the men were on retreat with Bishop O’Connell just before their June 2 ordination, feature a range of settings – from a contemplative walk on the beach to quiet moments in prayer, time spent playing music and relaxing while playing golf. The reflective scenes provide a fitting backdrop as each man discusses his discernment of a priestly life, his goals and hobbies, and his advice to other men considering the priesthood. Viewers come away with the sense that these men, all natives of the Diocese, could be their brother, neighbor or friend offering sage advice on a journey toward God.
Rayanne Bennett, executive director of the Diocese’s Office of Communications and Media, explained that this was the inaugural year for this type of project.
“We have interviewed priest candidates before their ordination for our print media, The Monitor, and we have had some of the new priests sharing their thoughts on video right after their ordination, but this is the first time we dedicated a video to each of them, giving them our full attention and letting them tell their stories in a very personal way.”
The four videos will be used across several of the Diocese’s media platforms for a variety of purposes, Bennett said.
“Our social media campaign is titled #FathersFootsteps in which we have posted one video each week for the past few weeks (facebook.com/TheCatholicDioceseofTrenton/). The videos that are up thus far have been wonderfully successful, with each being viewed thousands of times right there on social media.”
The videos have also garnered dozens of encouraging and welcoming comments from the Facebook community, Bennett related. “It really has been a very effective way to introduce these priests to their new communities. Our Facebook community has asked God to bless them, welcomed them to their new assignments and expressed heartfelt pride and inspiration after viewing the videos.
“In addition, the videos are available on the diocesan website (dioceseoftrenton.org/the-priesthood), where we are confident they will inspire those who visit those pages and are possibly considering a vocation of their own,” Bennett said.
Sharing Their Stories
In his video, Father Christopher J. Dayton, a 30-year-old native of Manasquan, shares his goal to be “a good, holy and faithful priest, a witness to the people I am serving. I want to show them God’s presence in their lives, be with them in the good times and the bad times.”
Father Dayton shares his love of golf and the beach, and advises those discerning a life of priestly service not to be afraid. “Treat every day as your first day and every day as your last day of discernment,” says the priest, now serving as parochial vicar in St. Rose Parish, Belmar. “Pray lots and stay close to God in that moment.”
Father Michael G. DeSaye, a 34-year-old native of Brick, now serves as parochial vicar in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton. “I believe with all my heart and soul that God is calling me to be a holy example like Christ was,” he says in his video.
The musician, who began his exploration of a priestly life while working in a Catholic church as an organist, continues, “Since I entered the seminary, I got more and more committed to a vocation until the time came when I felt it was a true calling from God.”
Father DeSaye goes on to recount how a tragedy involving a fellow seminarian impacted his discernment. The classmate dove into the water to save a woman after a boating accident but lost his own life in the act. “I think that perfectly encapsulates what we are trying to do as priests,” DeSaye says, “but instead of saving bodies, we are saving souls.”
Father Nicholas R. Dolan, 25, grew up attending Mass with his family and attended Lincroft’s Christian Brothers Academy. Before his ordination, he served as a brother in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Red Bank, for five years. He is now a priest of the Oratory, and a parochial vicar of the parish.
“I hope as a priest to be faithful to God above all, to do it joyfully like the patron of my community,” he says. An avid hiker and fan of the great outdoors, Father Dolan adheres to the admonition from St. John Paul II to “be not afraid” about his priestly service. “If there are fears for me, they are little fears. God is the one in control, and he will guide me through all of it.”
In his video, Father James R. Smith, a 39-year-old native of the greater Trenton area, declares, “My job as a priest is to help build bridges, to help bring people closer to Christ. I can only hope that my life … my preaching, the way I serve the people of the parish will show that.”
A technology buff and avid guitar player, Father Smith finds both leisure pursuits therapeutic. The cancer survivor credits prayer as “central … your life line.” During his illness, he “had many difficult days, but it was a wonderful time where that family and friends came together to support me,” he says, “and … a time that deepened my prayer life even more.”
Father Smith’s video is scheduled to be posted to Facebook July 18.