Meet our priests: Father Michael Parise

Parish/assignment: Pastor, St. Andrew Parish, Billerica

Place of birth: Medford, Mass.

How many brothers and sisters do you have? An older brother and a younger sister.

High school: Woburn High School

College/University/ Seminary

Undergraduate -- Boston University: B.A. in Biology, 1974

Graduate 1 -- St. John’s Seminary, M.Div., 1979

Graduate 2 -- St. John’s Seminary, M.A. in Historical Theology, 1981

Graduate 3 -- Assumption College, Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, Ecumenical Theology, 1994

Date of ordination: Sept. 15, 1979, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows at Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton.

What assignments have you had since ordination?

1979-1984: St. Bridget, Framingham 1984-1990: St. Gregory, Dorchester 1990-1992: St. Michael, N. Andover 1992-1997: Immaculate Conception, Malden/Medford 1997-Present: St. Andrew, N. Billerica

What have been some of the greatest joys for you as a priest?

My greatest joys have occurred when I have witnessed Jesus touching the minds and hearts of those open to his Spirit of love, intimacy, and healing. This is one reason I am such a huge supporter of Cursillo at St. Basil’s Seminary in Methuen.

Who influenced your vocation most to consider the priesthood?

The late Msgr. Joseph Lyons, the pastor of St. Eulalia Church in Winchester, was a man of deep faith, solid integrity, and easy communication. He was unpretentious and transparent and really took an active interest in everyone’s life. I was also profoundly influenced by Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and in college, by the Park Street Church “Seekers,” a group of 500 students from all religious backgrounds, who had a passion to share the gospel, to deepen our personal relationship with Christ, and to build up the body of Christ, the Church, particularly through evangelization and Biblical teaching.

What events or practices in your life helped you to discover and discern your call to the priesthood?

Prayer and the belief that God would show me his path helped me the most. As a senior in college preparing to enter dental school in the fall, I asked for and received a clear sign that I ought to change my path and enter the seminary instead. The mid-1970’s was a turbulent and exciting time in the Church. I had hoped that the teachings of the Second Vatican Council would galvanize us into a bright future of spiritual renewal and growth.

What is one of your favorite Scripture passages and why?

It would have to be Matthew 6:33, the “primary directive” of “Seekers”: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all else will be given to you.” I have tried to live by this word of Jesus, despite the struggles and challenges to my faith posed both from within and outside of the Church.

What are some of your hobbies?

I am a painter and a published writer. I also love architecture and art history. I enjoy reading history and historical novels, and some say I am quite a good cook.

What advice would you give to a young man who is considering the priesthood?

I would tell them first and foremost: be brutally honest with God and with self, always. I would then advise them to gain life-experience before entering the seminary, to focus on Jesus as personal Lord and Savior and not only on institutions, to have good and intimate friends, even outside of the priesthood and the Church, to learn well their theological and liturgical “craft,” to develop hobbies and interests that will enrich faith and ministry, to take an interest in the arts as a window into God’s creative grace, and to remain intellectually curious.

What are some of your favorite books/ spiritual reading/ magazines?

I enjoy historical theology, though lately my favorite books are those having to do with art and architecture. I find many sources for spiritual reading, though the Bible and Henri Nouwen remain favorites.

Through the cardinal, God is calling each of us personally to help rebuild his Church. How must the priest respond to this mandate today?

First, I must say it is through CHRIST that ALL the baptized are called personally to help rebuild his Church. That said, we priests need to refocus ourselves more radically to preach and teach Jesus Christ and salvation through personal faith in his life, death and resurrection in and through the sacraments of the Church. We who are ordained priests must never discount the power of our vocation to manifest Christ in our world sacramentally. This will require courage and in our time of increased secularization, a sea-change in the way we offer the sacraments of initiation to our young parents and their children. We need to find a new balance between the working of the Holy Spirit and our responsibility as pastors carefully and lovingly to prepare and hold accountable those who make promises of commitment to the practice of the Catholic faith, beginning with weekly Eucharist.

When Cardinal Seán came to Boston, he wrote a pastoral letter entitled: “Vocations: Everybody’s Business.” What are some ways that we can help all individuals and families understand their role in promoting and supporting vocations?

First, we must understand our vocation to discipleship in Christ as the source of all vocations. Second, we must depend more on the informed faith and witness of parents to bring their children closer to Jesus and the Church. Third, we must become more socially and personally committed to each other in our parishes. Fourth, we must be more supportive of Catholic couples who use Natural Family Planning and who are open to larger families. Finally, parishioners need to make the time to invite their priests into their lives as members of their family, and not be content to view them simply as “religious functionaries.”