BY BILL SKOWRONSKI
Director of Communication and Marketing Central Province, USA
That was 2006, when the Dominicans lived in Jesuit Hall at Saint Louis University. His friend is now a member of the Dominican Laity and Fr. Raymond Bryce, O.P. is now an ordained Dominican Priest in the Central Province.
His first experience with the Order of Preachers was overwhelming and wonderful. “A flood of guys in white pouring into the chapel,” he said. He came back every week after, and was eventually invited to a Come & See vocation weekend.
“Being in St. Louis was nourishing and enriching for my faith and prayer life,” Fr. Bryce said. “It was like being guided along by the provident hand of God”
It’s possible Fr. Bryce would not have found his way to St. Louis were it not for this guidance, which he felt in a real way during the Easter season in 2006. While stationed at the Air Force base in Little Rock, Arkansas, Fr. Bryce met Max Elliott, a retired Air Force Deacon. Max’s wife Pricilla lured him to attend a Confirmation Mass on base by offering a chicken dinner afterwards.
“It was one of the few homilies I’ve never forgotten,” Fr. Bryce said. “I remember preachers who were good, but this homily was burned into my memory.”
Someone has probably told you that because you’re being confirmed, you have to know all the answers now because you’re Catholic adults. I’m 70 and I don’t have all the answers. Let me give you some good advice for the days and years to come. Pray every day. When you’re praying, if the Holy Spirit ever comes and asks you to do something, no matter what it is, just like when the angel Gabriel came to the Blessed Mother, just do what she did and have the courage to say yes, even if you don’t know how it’s going to happen.
When the bishop gave that homily, at the point where he said “the angel Gabriel,” Bryce felt the undeniable sense the Lord spoke to him and He said the thing the bishop is saying is what I am saying. What I want you to do is become a priest. Father Bryce broke down in tears right there.
The first time he visited Chicago, Fr. Bryce made the trip with Sr. Maria Vianney, O.P., who at the time was still discerning her call to religious life as well. That night, he met Fr. Marty McCormick, O.P., who had been diagnosed with brain cancer and given only six months to live. The two men shook hands and Fr. Marty said, “If I could do it all again, I wouldn’t just walk back, I would run back to the Dominicans. My life has been so blessed, it’s been such a gift.”
Dominican life has also been a gift to Fr. Bryce. He chose the Order for its focus on Community Life, which he admits is both supportive and challenging in a constructive way.
“You get into religious life and you realize you have support to lean back on when days get tough. The brothers are there for you,” Fr. Bryce said. “Of course we’re all also working on growing which means we’re not perfect and we get on each other’s nerves, but all the rough edges help you grow in holiness as well.”
As a C-130 pilot, he enjoyed being part of the five-man crew it took to fly the plane. Now he brings that unique leadership ability into active ministry.
“I met people in the military in my first year who were solid Christians and they were able to show me what Christian leadership looks like,” Fr. Bryce said. “It has its own particular flavor. You can tell someone that you should care about your people, be professional and work hard, but when you see a Christian doing that, there’s more than an obligation, there is a genuine capacity to care for people—it’s a part of their Christian witness.”
“There was nothing I loved more than being in the military and being an Air Force pilot,” Fr. Bryce added. “The only thing I could’ve loved more was God, and it was him that came calling.”
Fr. Raymond Bryce, O.P. is parochial vicar at St. Paul Catholic Center on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
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