Overcoming his doubts

First slide

When Brian McAllister was growing up a Lutheran in Richmond, becoming a Catholic priest was the last thing he could have imagined.

On June 1, McAllister, 34, will join with four other diocesan seminarians and three men who will be ordained to the permanent diaconate at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. He will kneel before Bishop Paul S. Loverde, who will lay hands on the men's heads and say the prayers of consecration to the diaconate. This event marks their last year in seminary. For the next year, they will work in parishes until their expected priestly ordination in June 2014.

This journey from a Lutheran boyhood to the cathedral altar took several turns including service in the U.S. Army, and several starts at the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

McAllister attended Park Tudor School in Indianapolis and after graduating enrolled in Centre College in Danville, Ky., majoring in English literature. He was in the ROTC cadet program, so after graduation he entered the Army's U.S. Airborne School in Fort Benning, Ga., and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq. An Army chaplain piqued his interest in Catholicism, but that seed planted had a way to go before harvest.

McAllister was not the first of his family to convert to Catholicism. His mother Delane became a Catholic and helped pull him to the church.

"I saw how much she loved the faith," he said. "It helped win me over."

His mother's conversion made him more interested in the church, but he still divided his religious practice between Catholic and Protestant services.

"I was drawn to the Mass," he said.

But his search for truth continued. He didn't want to enter the Catholic Church halfheartedly. He wanted to take his time. In fact, he began the RCIA three times in the various places he lived.

"I wanted to intellectually assent to everything the church believed," McAllister said of his doubts.

In 2006, he made his first confession at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Amherst.

"I took confession very seriously," he said.

Hearing his confession, and seeing how enthusiastic McAllister was, the priest asked him, "Have you ever thought of becoming a Catholic priest?"

"I got really excited," said McAllister of the question.

That query stayed with him and with help from a spiritual director and encouragement from family he entered Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., two years after his reception into the faith.

His discernment at Mount St. Mary's solidified his desire to be a priest. McAllister said that the process gave him "sufficient certitude and sufficient clarity to know that this is what I want."

But he added that no one can make such a big decision like a religious conversion and an ordination without some doubt.

"We have to stay close to Jesus," he said of his efforts to overcome those doubts.

McAllister said he knows he is on the right path even with doubt, and he looks forward to his year as a deacon and to his opportunity to be a spiritual father to his parishioners.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970