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Seminarian Peter McShurley excited to preach

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Quarles Gas Station in Front Royal was one site among many in Peter M. McShurley’s path to the priesthood. Only 16, it was his first job, and his boss put him in an awkward position when he asked him to work on a Sunday.

“I told him that I couldn’t because of Mass, and even though my co-workers struggled with that, they ended up respecting me for it. I realized that my Catholic faith was calling me to live differently than most,” he said.

It was at this time as well that he and his grandparents visited the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala., and where he felt the stirrings of a call to the priesthood. Another prompting came when he received a letter from his aunt, a cloistered nun in Buffalo, N.Y., letting him know that she was praying for him.

“I just kind of put that call on the backburner until my freshman year in college when I signed up for morning adoration. In the stillness, I started thinking again about my earlier thoughts of the priesthood,” McShurley said.

After his freshman year at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, he transferred to Christendom College in Front Royal. Located near his hometown of Linden, it was easier to cut expenses. During his freshman year, he was working four to five days a week, but struggled with paying rising tuition costs. 

While “city hopping” in France and Spain before the start of a junior year semester abroad in Rome, it became clear that he needed to enter seminary.

“I was praying at a Benedictine monastery, Fontgombault Abbey, about three to four hours from Paris, and I felt this excitement about becoming a priest, a sense of freedom, too,” McShurley said.

He graduated from Christendom College in 2014 with a degree in philosophy. Homeschooled all the way through 12th grade along with his four brothers and five sisters, it meant a lot to him that he had his siblings’ support.

“When I told them, ‘Hey, I am actually thinking of applying to the seminary,’ they were all encouraging and happy that I would consider that,” he said.

Father Jerome W. Fasano, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, also impacted his vocation by providing him with a positive witness of the priestly life.

“He always encouraged me to live a holy life, and he made himself available for confession and spiritual guidance. It was clear that he loved his life as a priest and that was beautiful to see,” McShurley said.

In August 2014, he began his studies at St. Charles Borromeo in Wynnewood, Pa. In 2016, he went to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, an experience that gave him the opportunity to serve once as crosier-bearer for Pope Francis.

Reflecting on his desire to be a priest, he said it’s ultimately about sharing Jesus Christ with others.

“I was drawn to the priesthood through my encounters with people who weren’t living the faith. Seeing the pain in their lives and their search for something more, I have a desire to share Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I am also excited about preaching,” McShurley said.

McShurley will be ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington June 1.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019