The second of two stories that show our Universities and our mission in action.
University Chaplain Opens His Heart to St. John’s Community
Fr. John Holliday, CM knows from personal experience the journey of many of today’s students.
“I came back to the church and changed my life at a relatively late age. I hope that helps people to realize that things are not necessarily over when you enter the later stages of life.”
Born and raised in Wilmington, DE, Fr. Holliday said he grew up in the Catholic faith, attended Catholic schools, and considered becoming a priest when he was a teenager. But he “fell away from the Church” when he turned 18 and spent nearly 20 years managing restaurants and movie theaters. The death of his father at only 58 years old caused Fr. Holliday to reevaluate his life, and he soon returned to practicing his Catholic faith at his local parish, the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington.
Today Father John J. Holliday, C.M., is quick to name one of his favorite parts of his job as University Chaplain at St. John’s.
“It is working with young people,” said Fr. Holliday, who arrived on the Queens, NY, campus in August 2017, after spending his priesthood as pastor of several parishes in Emmitsburg, MD, and Philadelphia, PA.
“In parishes, the people who are 18 to 24 years old are either away at college or they are not going to church anymore, so you do not see many young adults,” he observed. “But here, we are surrounded by young people—we are in the middle of all of their energy, and they are at a transitional point in their personal and spiritual lives. They are full of excitement and optimism about beginning their careers and going out to change the world. That attitude is very contagious.”
Sharing his own journey
One of his main goals, he said, is to encourage students not to take their spirituality and their relationship to it for granted.
“They should also ask questions and know that Campus Ministry can help them figure things out instead of trying to do it on their own, the way I did.”
Several years later, he rekindled his interest in joining the priesthood and found his way to the Vincentian community after realizing he wanted to work primarily in service to the poor and marginalized. At 40, he was accepted into the formation program of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission and was sent to St. John’s to study philosophy. He graduated in 2000, and at 47, he was ordained into the Vincentian priesthood.
“I think it just turned out that God thought I would make a better priest at 47 instead of at 27,” Fr. Holliday said.