Ordination Class of 2023: Deacon Paul Born
This is the fourth in a series of articles profiling the five men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 20, 2023.
BRIGHTON -- Many future priests begin their journeys to the priesthood through serving at the altar. This was even more true for Deacon Paul Born, who discovered a sense of community and identity by serving at St. Patrick Parish in Stoneham from a young age.
He grew up in St. Patrick's, a busy parish in a town of mostly Irish and Italian heritage. His mother faithfully took him and his sister to Sunday Mass, and in the third grade, he signed up to be an altar server. Over the next five years, Deacon Born continued in the role while other altar servers came and went. He served at weddings, funerals, and holiday Masses, as well as at daily and Sunday Masses. This allowed him to meet many priests visiting his parish over the years. One aspect of the experience that impressed him was when he carried the cross in procession, and everyone bowed to it.
Over time, Deacon Born said, the Church helped him grow in confidence and maturity. It was the place where he found "consolation" and "the happiness and the hope for which we look."
"I received many blessings as a child, but I was realizing that something more was needed to fill the gaps in human hearts and desires," he said.
When he began high school, he was invited to be a paid sacristan on weekends. So, Deacon Born worked in the parish every Sunday for the next four years.
His active involvement in the parish also enabled him to form friendships with people outside his family. As a teenager, he found a summer job as a painter for a company run by the main usher.
"I think my desire to be a diocesan priest was influenced by what that parish did for me and what I saw in that parish life, and how good it could be for the people in our town," he said.
He was not involved with his parish's youth group until his junior year, when the leader, Marcos Desiderio, returned from a mission in Italy. Deacon Born then joined and went with the group on two "life-changing" trips to Italy and Peru.
While visiting Rome, Deacon Born was "struck by the catholicity of the Church." Seeing the Church outside of his own town, and particularly the graves of martyrs, strengthened his faith as he prepared for his Confirmation.
The youth group spent two and a half weeks on a mission trip in Peru, where their parish supported a pastoral center run by a men's religious order, the Sodalitium of Christian Life. They gave a talk about discerning one's vocation, and hearing about that made Deacon Born panic. But the chaperones reassured him that God would not make him do anything, and that his vocation was ultimately his choice.
After high school, Deacon Born went to Boston College to pursue a business degree. There, he joined the men's group the Sons of St. Patrick, who taught him about Church history, prayer, and how to be a Christian in a difficult environment. For the first time, he learned how to build community, rather than have it provided for him.
"I can't just coast along. A Christian needs to pray and be involved in the community," Deacon Born said.
He thought he might go to seminary someday, but first he wanted to work to pay off his student loans. After graduating from BC, he got a job at a bank in New York City, but he struggled to find a community and maintain a regular prayer life. He realized that he only took time to pray at special events, like retreats or social gatherings.
It was only after he began to pray the rosary daily that he was able to reflect on his vocation and realize God had been calling him all along to the priesthood.
During this time, he heard Father Roger Landry, a priest of Fall River, preach at a retreat. While he was there, Deacon Born thought deeply about his desires and what he had been trying to discover. He knew what people looked for in priests, and how priests had been helpful to him in his life.
"A lot of it didn't have to do with their own personal charisma or skills, it was just because Christ's priesthood is personalized here, in this person," Deacon Born said.
He realized that his desire for fatherhood and family could be satisfied by being a priest, "clothed with Christ's fatherhood."
He decided to return to the Archdiocese of Boston, where he had first received his vocation. He attended St. John's Seminary and served his diaconate assignment at St. Mary Parish in Waltham.
For those discerning their vocation, Deacon Born would advise working on "the radical nature of your faith."
"Be willing to follow Christ in anything. Know that every vocation involves sacrifice and blessings," he said.
He added, "Once you're in a place of no fear, then you can really discern."