Father Francis Godkin, FPO Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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BOSTON -- For Father Francis Godkin, FPO, the idea of being "an instrument of God's peace," as the Prayer of St. Francis says, has always been important -- though his understanding of what that means has changed over time.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Father Godkin went to local schools and received the sacraments from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. His mother consecrated him and his two siblings, individually, in the Marian consecration when they were children.
For many years, Father Godkin thought he would become a professional musician. He played piano and percussion from a young age, and it made him happy to see that people enjoyed hearing him play.
"Music can touch people in a way that words can't. So that touched me early on in my spiritual growth," he said in a May 24 interview.
Although he recognized that his talent was a gift from God, he also had "a lot of motives that needed to be purified," he said.
"I would always ask God how I should use my gift of music to glorify him. But I know that, looking back on it, my intentions weren't always so pure and selfless," Father Godkin said.
As he went through junior and senior high school, he had "a kind of conversion experience" and became more serious about his Catholic faith. After coming to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, he started to question his chosen career.
Going on mission trips to Ghana and Mexico helped Father Godkin "to be more open to God's call in my life and see that there was a different career path that God was opening up for me." After seeing the poverty of the people, he said, "I recognized that life is more than just having a successful career."
"These people opened me up to seeing the importance of family, and the importance of being authentic and sincere with God," he said.
That was when he began to think about religious life. His spiritual director, the late Father Greg Staab, OMV, helped him in his discernment and introduced him to the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance.
"I really fell in love with St. Francis and his love for the poor," Father Godkin said.
He professed his first vows with the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance in 2014.
The idea of priesthood had not occurred to him initially, but developed through his experience living in community with Franciscan priests. He came to learn that the priesthood and religious life "harmonize one another."
"Even though they're two distinct paths, they are so complementary and so efficacious for the Church," he said.
Learning that it was possible to do both "really made me happy," he said, because "my personality has always been, if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it all the way."
In accordance with the community's rules, Father Godkin had to live as a brother for one year before beginning his studies for the priesthood. He earned his Master of Arts degree in philosophy from St. John's Seminary.
For his diaconate, Father Godkin served the Hispanic community in the Roxbury-Dorchester collaborative, which consists of the parishes of St. Patrick, St. Peter, and Holy Family.
"I was really inspired and touched by their faith and their love for their family and their dedication to one another and the Church. It was extremely fruitful for my own spiritual life, to see that," he said.
Although he no longer has as much access to instruments or time for music, Father Godkin has kept it up in some ways, such as singing in choir and playing music during Holy Hours for young-adult groups.
"There's definitely things that you have to sacrifice with regards to hobbies, just because of the demands of what the vocation requires," he said.
He always comes back to the words of St. Francis' prayer, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace."
"I wanted so much to make a good sound to the Lord and play music, but really the principal call that I feel God is always telling me is personal conversion is the best way to become an instrument for God's grace," Father Godkin said.