‘This is what I’ve been preparing for’

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One week from Sunday, Deacon Ed Bresnahan - by then a priest - will celebrate his first Mass.

It's an event he's been looking forward to for years and one he anticipates eagerly, with butterflies in his stomach.

"I've been to Mass almost every day for my whole life so I should have a pretty good idea of what to do, but being able to celebrate it for the first time I have a little bit of butterflies because this is what I've been preparing for," he said. "This is the biggest moment of my life - to be able to lay my life down on the altar and celebrate the Eucharist."

Deacon Bresnahan, who will be ordained June 12 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, will celebrate that first Mass at his home parish, Holy Family in Dale City. It's the same parish where he was baptized and confirmed and where he received his first Communion. It's also the home of many family members and supportive friends, like Father Donald Planty, who Deacon Bresnahan said has provided "rock solid" support for years.

"They've all been so good to me over the past six years, really the past 28 years," Deacon Bresnahan said. "Being ordained to the priesthood is a team effort. You need mentors and families, and the parish has been around me the whole way. I think they're about as excited as me being ordained as I am."

Born Dec. 13, 1981, Deacon Bresnahan grew up attending Holy Family. He spent a few years at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge, a few years being home-schooled and he graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington in 1999.

While the Faith was always important to him, Deacon Bresnahan did not seriously consider becoming a priest until after his 2003 graduation from the University of Dallas.

He spent the first year after college traveling around the country evangelizing with Net Ministries, an organization that works to get young people excited about the Faith. The time he spent as a missionary was grueling, but rewarding.

"It's a real struggle to travel around in a van for nine months," Deacon Bresnahan said. "You're staying with hosts families who have kids on the retreat and it's the same conversations night after night. You really learn how to meet people where they're at and just be able to say, 'I'm here, not for anything of my own, but for the people to be able to talk and interact.'"

While he was on the road, Deacon Bresnahan developed a strong prayer life. Those prayers were vital in discerning his vocation to the priesthood.

"If there are young men or women who are considering a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life, don't be afraid to pray about it," he said. "Don't be afraid to ask people questions about it. If I didn't ask people about becoming a priest and if I didn't bring it into prayer, I wouldn't be here. It becomes a whole lot clearer when you begin praying about it."

For the last year, Deacon Bresnahan has been working at All Saints Church in Manassas as part of his obligatory year of service in the transitional diaconate. He says the experience has taught him a lot and given him experiences beyond what he could have imagined.

"All Saints is such a big parish that there's always something going on, so I'm never at a loss for some new ministry experience," he said. "There's no way you can really know exactly what you're getting into until you get a chance to experience it, but the joy and the great and wonderful experience that comes with being a deacon has simply been incredible."

As his year at All Saints comes to a close, Deacon Bresnahan says he's looking forward to his new duties as a priest.

"I'm most exciting about celebrating sacraments with people and being another Christ," he said. "When you enter the priesthood, one of the biggest things we seem to talk about is the idea of laying your life down for others. The way we do that is by entering into the mysteries of the Church by bringing the sacraments to other people and by bringing them the Eucharist."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010