Persons, places and things: A ‘Close’ connection

Barb Arland-Fye

Father Corey Close became a columnist for The Catholic Messenger two years ago as a third-year seminarian studying for the Davenport Diocese at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
“I’ve been asked by many people what life as a seminarian is like, what it’s like living in Rome, and whether I have met the pope yet. I thought I could provide a monthly column to answer some of these questions and whet your appetite with a few more. This first column will lay the groundwork for future columns,” the seminarian wrote in that debut column published Sept. 16, 2010.
His subsequent columns have delivered on the promise. Fr. Corey has shared powerful insights about his experience as a seminarian, and that of his fellow seminarians studying in Rome. He explained the meaning of the vows that ordained clergy make, explored forms of prayer and described celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign country that the pilgrims didn’t settle.
Fr. Corey wrote about celebrating Christmas in various parts of Europe with other seminarians.
“Even though I have been far away from home and my family in these experiences, Christmas is a time when I’ve felt closer to the people I’ve been with in seminary in a way not otherwise possible.
“One of my favorite memories of the past few years was Christmas in Prague. Two friends of mine and I were staying with a nice lady in Prague who entertains seminarians. We all bought each other small gifts, wrapped them, and exchanged them on Christmas day, just as if we were at home.
“It was certainly a modest Christmas, but I think we experienced something of the unifying character of our faith that day,” the future priest wrote in his column Dec. 23, 2010. “Christ came to form one human family from the many scattered families and people that already existed. It is this experience of family that I have had the privilege of being a part of in my time here.”
One of his columns detoured from Rome to the Appalachian Mountains where he volunteered with teenagers from St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt repairing poor people’s houses. Having never been engaged in such work, he admitted to feeling daunted.
“But when I saw the kids go in without a second thought, it inspired me throughout the week to do the best that I could to help,” the seminarian wrote in his column Aug. 18, 2011.
“When the trip was over and all the kids returned to their lives and their parents and all the dust had settled, I found that I missed them, and wished I could give them more. But such is one of the crosses of ministry. All become your children, but they only enter your life for a little while, and then one of you must move on.”
Fr. Close wrote of the joy of being ordained to the diaconate last October.  The indelible memory for him “was Cardinal William Levada laying his hands on my head, and calling the Holy Spirit to come down and sanctify me. From that moment, I ceased to be my own man, but rather, by giving up my ‘freedom’ to do whatever I want, gained the true freedom of being a son who serves his beloved Father with all his heart.”
Fr. Corey acknowledged in his columns that choosing to respond to God’s call hasn’t been easy, but each step taken in faith has led to the next one, culminating in the day he’s longed for: his ordination to the priesthood, June 23, 2012.
As the editor of his terrific column, it has been a privilege for me to accompany Fr. Corey in a small way on his journey to the priesthood.  He’s promised to continue writing a column. Life has changed significantly for Fr. Corey, and each column reads like the chapter of a book I don’t want to put down.
Barb Arland-Fye  

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