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Oldest of nine, Christendom grad, future priest

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The first brotherhood Deacon Nicholas F. Blank experienced was the relationship the oldest of nine had with his younger brothers. As he grew older, he found camaraderie with his soccer teammates. When choosing a college, the teen decided to attend Christendom College in Front Royal because he wanted to be formed by the godly men he saw attending the school. After graduating, seminary provided even more opportunities for fraternal bonding. “Friendship has always been so precious to me,” said Deacon Blank. He knows his friends will help him greatly as a newly ordained priest.

Deacon Blank was born to Richard and Monica Blank in Fort Ord, Calif., Jan. 29, 1992. As his father was in the U.S. Navy, his family moved around during his childhood. His parents homeschooled Blank and his siblings — five boys and three girls. “I loved it. I'm really grateful for it,” he said. “My brothers are my best friends and being homeschooled probably allowed for my first desire to be a priest.”

When they lived in Virginia, Blank would serve as an altar boy at daily Mass at St. William of York Church in Stafford. “I had the opportunity to be around priests, to be around the sanctuary almost every day,” he said, and it made an impression. He continued to pray about the possibility of being a priest in high school and in college.

 “A critical moment for me was when I was a senior listening to one friend of mine describe the sacrificial love he was striving to have for his girlfriend who he hoped one day would be his wife,” said Deacon Blank. “It was at that moment that I realized I couldn’t intend that kind of love for a woman because the possibility of priesthood was too present to my heart. My friend, because he was so dear to me, helped me to see really where my heart lay.

“I (couldn’t date) until I tested this other desire. I’ve tested it and it has not been found wanting,” he said laughing.

Now after years of studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., Deacon Blank will be ordained a priest by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington June 8. “My family and friends are all thrilled,” he said. “It's not merely an achievement — it's a day in which I will be greatly blessed and so will my family.”

Though he’s studied for the priesthood, Deacon Blank knows there’s still much to learn and experience — how to comfort the grieving, how to give a meaningful homily, how to be a good confessor. “I like to be perfect. All the unpreparedness and discomfort two years ago would’ve driven me crazy with restlessness,” he said. But now he says he has peace even with the coming challenges.

After his priestly ordination, Deacon Blank will be a parochial vicar at the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria. Serving as a deacon at the cathedral this year has given him a good idea of what parish life will be like. He’s preached during Mass, performed baptisms and prepared a family for the burial of their loved one. He’s gotten to know the Cathedral School students. “Those kids give me a lot of life. They ask really good questions, which make you fall in love with the faith again and again,” he said. “I look forward to being in a parish throughout the year, for several years consecutively, getting to know families and having the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments for them, getting plugged into the church life for the first time.”

But before he dives in, he’ll have a few weeks to spend with the friends he’s made along the way. He’s traveling to other dioceses to see the ordination of his three best friends from seminary. And he’s spending a few days vacationing with the other newly ordained diocesan priests. The four men have attended three seminaries between them, and there will be a lot to catch up on, said Deacon Blank. “We haven’t had the opportunity to have the talks together of, ‘What do you look forward most to about the priesthood? How can I support you?’ ”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

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