Name: Father Michael T. Phillips
Years ordained: 40+
Current assignment: Pastor, St. Wenceslaus, Iowa City
How did you know you were being called to priesthood?
From the time I was in grade school, I knew I wanted to be a priest. The only question I really had was whether God wanted me to be one. As the years went by, the desire to offer my life to the Lord only intensified, and through prayer, the sacraments and the helpful advice of many good people, I knew that God wanted me, too.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass?
Three occasions come to mind immediately. 1) My father’s funeral in 1977. Through all the sadness there was a deep, reassuring joy in that Mass that I will never forget. And the presence of so many brother priests there was a great support as well; 2) Assisting Pope John Paul II at Mass in St. Peter’s in Rome in June 1995. Just to be near an intensely prayerful John Paul at the altar was an incredible experience of faith and gratitude for the gift of being a priest; 3) Being able to offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form now, and be immersed in its solemn beauty and majesty. I love history, so being able to offer the traditional Latin Mass “connects” me with all the great saints of the past who worshiped God with the same words and gestures that fostered my own vocation so many years ago.
What is most rewarding about being a priest?
Knowing that you have been called by God to be intimately identified with his son Jesus as his instrument of love, mercy and grace in this world. I think that’s awesome! And how incredibly unworthy is any man to have such a role in life. After 40 years I look in the mirror as I put on my clerical collar and still can’t believe that I’m really a priest! But the people, by their respect and support, will always remind you, and expect you to be what that collar represents.
What is most challenging about being a priest?
All of the duties connected with administration, especially going to innumerable meetings, filling out forms and raising money. Finding the time to do all the paperwork and still be available for the immediate needs of the people — and even my own spiritual and recreational needs. Why, just in the course of filling out this questionnaire, I’ve been interrupted five times by the phone and doorbell.
What is your favorite Scripture passage?
I have many, but the ones that touch me the most are the post-resurrection passages where Jesus reveals his glory and encourages his disciples. From calling Mary by name at the empty tomb to his meeting with the doubting Thomas to asking Peter for a public declaration of his love, I find great personal consolation in the Lord’s words. They are addressed to me, too.
What is your hobby?
Reading (biographies, current events, politics, religion); collecting and listening to classic radio programs; watching old TV shows; visiting museums, bookstores and presidential libraries; bowling and walking the mall for exercise.