Name: Fr. Paul Connolly
Years ordained: 27 (1983)
Current assignment: Pastor, St. Joseph Church in DeWitt
How did you know you were being called to priesthood? I had thought about a vocation in grade school, but in high school I felt I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. After graduating from college, I was teaching elementary physical education and was head softball coach and assistant wrestling coach for the WACO Community School System. In my third year of teaching, Father Kevin Coughlin taught an adult education class during Lent at St. Alphonsus Church in Mount Pleasant, which I attended. After our last class, I asked Fr. Coughlin if I could talk to him about priesthood. We talked for about an hour and he told me to call him when I came home for Easter vacation.
But before I could talk to him again, I was offered the head wrestling position. Since that was my goal — to be a head wrestling coach — I put off my interest in the priesthood. But thoughts of the priesthood kept coming back, so the following year when I was home on vacation I stopped by Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf and spoke with Father Ed Fitzpatrick. Fr. Ed said that since I had thought about being a priest in grade school and again last year, maybe God was calling me. He said that I should consider entering the seminary. He told me that attending a seminary does not mean that you are going to be a priest, but it does mean you are really willing to open yourself to the possibility of the priesthood. It would give me time and direction in looking at my life. With that advice I entered the seminary that fall and after five years of prayer and direction truly realized that priesthood was where God was calling me.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass? There have been many memorable Masses, but one that stands out was my 25th anniversary Mass. It was at the Church of All Saints in Keokuk right in the middle of the June 2008 flood. Many people from the places I served fought through floodwaters to attend. All of my brothers and sisters and their families were there, and my godfather/uncle Brother Paul Sullivan, SDS, who almost died that fall, recovered enough to attend. All of the choirs of the parish combined to form one fantastic choir. It was a truly great celebration.
What is most rewarding about being a priest? Being invited in to the most important moments of people’s lives, celebrating new birth in baptism, new life in a funeral Mass, the joining of two lives in marriage, and helping a person return to the sacraments in the sacrament of penance.
What is most challenging about being a priest? Trying to make the right decision when facing a tough situation.
What is your favorite Scripture passage? It comes from the Gospel of John, in the Last Supper Discourse where Jesus tells the apostles, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God and faith in me.”
What is your hobby? Golf and attending grade school and high school athletic and fine arts events.