By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Just days after being ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Father Mitchell McLaughlin presided at daily Mass June 6-9 in the church of his childhood, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf. Today, his parents, Patrick and Mindy McLaughlin, are members of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.
Father McLaughlin traveled to the Quad Cities for the ordination of his seminary classmates, Fathers Dale Mallory and Benjamin Snyder, who were ordained June 4 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. All three priests completed their studies at St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minnesota. The visit home provided an opportunity for Father McLaughlin to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for people from his home state who have been praying for him as he prepared for the priesthood.
Presiding at Mass at Lourdes seemed surreal to the new priest, who was thinking to himself, “Now I’m on the other side of the altar,” he said during an interview at the home of friends in Bettendorf. Reflecting on his May 27 ordination at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, Father McLaughlin said one of the special moments for him was putting on his chasuble. “I had clarity of mind that I’m a priest.”
Other special moments during the liturgy were the laying on of hands by his fellow priests and exchanging the sign of peace with them. Both rituals helped him to sense that he was “really entering into the brotherhood” of priests.
He is grateful for his family’s support of his vocation, which he began to discern when he was a student at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. While there, he made friends at the St. Thomas More Newman Center and joined two different FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Bible studies, he said.
Beginning July 1, Father McLaughlin will serve two parishes in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and at the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center on the campus of Northern State University, he said. “Don’t make discernment complicated,” he advises other young men wondering if they have a vocation to the priesthood. “Check out a seminary if you have any inclination at all. … Discernment always happens best with fellow seminarians from your own dioceses and different dioceses.”
Father McLaughlin doubted his calling to a vocation many times, such as when friends got married. He knew that marriage is a beautiful vocation, as well. However, “I could never deny that the Lord has indeed called me to the idea of the priesthood, a conviction that built up over time.” Discernment helped him to grow in confidence and in his trust in God, he said.
His parents said the ordination Mass moved them. “Emotionally, it was quite an experience, especially for parents; it was a beautiful Mass,” Patrick McLaughlin said. His oldest son and two other priests were ordained during the Mass. Even more moving for the father was witnessing his son preside at his first Mass the following day. “To see him raising up the chalice during Mass is one of those things you remember.” Father McLaughlin’s mother said she was fascinated to learn through her son’s journey to the priesthood “that each priest has his own story. It made me realize God has a plan for each of us.”