Future Priest: 'I Love the Idea of Faith'

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
May 21, 2003

James Achadinha harbors no illusions about solving two problems afflicting the Roman Catholic Church in this country: the shrinking priesthood and the damage wrought by a year of clergy misconduct revelations.

The 27-year-old future priest hopes only to help restore the church "one family at a time."

"I know I can't go out there to solve this problem, I'm not going out there to be the superhero," he said in a recent interview. "I'm going to go out there to meet people at whatever parish I'm assigned to and show them who I am as a person and that I'm striving to be holy just as they're striving to be holy."

Achadinha is one of 11 men set to be ordained into the priesthood Saturday in ceremonies at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End.

The spiritual journey began in childhood for the son of Portuguese immigrants, Achadinha recalled.

"I grew up in a very religious, faithful Catholic household. Ever since I was a little kid, church has been a big part of my life," he said.

His parents are "faithful Catholics" and "they brought a lot of traditions with them, respect for the church and respect for the priests," he said.

Achadinha has particularly fond memories of his boyhood pastor at St. Anthony's in Cambridge, the Rev. Jose Ferreira.

"He's always been a really great influence," Achadinha said. "He treats people with respect and kindness and he's a good shepherd to the people. He's always been a good mentor for me."

Throughout his time as a student at Boston University, where he majored in mathematics education and theology, Achadinha pondered becoming a priest.

But he also had other ideas, like marrying and having children.

When he entered St. John's Seminary four years ago, some friends who were interested in steering him away from a life of celibacy suggested they'd find a girlfriend for him and the idea of a priestly vocation would end in a heartbeat.

His parents, he said, always supported the idea of him becoming a priest but never pushed.

After deep reflection during seminary years, Achadinha put aside thoughts of teaching and raising children.

It is with great confidence in his choice, he said, that he will lie face down before Bishop Richard G. Lennon Saturday and pledge his life to the church.

Neither he nor any of the other priests-to-be knows what the church holds for him beyond that hour.

Wherever he ends up, Achadinha looks forward to traveling alongside his fellow spiritual pilgrims, to marrying the young and burying the old, he said. "I love the idea of faith and how people respond to God in different ways."

Part of Achadinha's plan for succeeding as a priest involves staying in touch with his college friends - some of them the same chums who attempted to sway him from the priesthood.

"I'm still Jimmy to them," he said. "I do challenge them sometimes - `maybe you guys should go to Mass some more' - but they keep me grounded and keep me real."


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