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Small things can be big things

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Small things are important to Deacon Peter M. McShurley. 

The past year has been a whirlwind for the soon-to-be ordained priest, who was uprooted from his final year of seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and rushed home to Virginia for a two-week quarantine to ensure he hadn’t picked up the coronavirus in his travels. As soon as the quarantine ended, he jumped into his duties assisting Bishop Michael F. Burbidge as a deacon at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, where he could be seen carrying the Paschal candle and chanting the beautiful Service of Light prayers at the Easter Vigil Mass, livestreamed to thousands. 

But when asked about his favorite memory from the past year, Deacon McShurley didn’t mention any of those dramatic events. He said his favorite memory was being able to participate in Mass in a new way — by proclaiming the Gospel. 

“While it may seem like a small thing, because you’re just reading what’s already written, it sort of awakened in me that I’m participating in something so much bigger than myself,” he said. “To be able to proclaim the words of Christ in a public setting fills me with a reverence and awe every time I do it.” 

His role model for becoming a priest was his pastor growing up, Father Jerome Fasano of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, who embodied “the joy of being a priest.” Father Fasano will vest him in the priestly stole and chasuble at his ordination June 6, where most of his guest slots will be filled by his large family, which includes his parents, four brothers and five sisters, and 17 nieces and nephews. Deacon McShurley, who turns 28 June 16, said he knew other friends and well-wishers will watch the ordination via livestream, and will attend his first Mass celebrated as a priest, at St. John the Baptist.

His first assignment will be at St. Agnes Church in Arlington, where he’ll join the staff as a parochial vicar June 25, and where he said parishioners will probably see him around the neighborhood when he goes for runs. On warm days when windows are open, some might also hear him practicing classical piano — he said he’s played all his life, but only classical. “It takes me a really long time to learn a new piece of music,” he admitted.

In his new duties as a priest, he especially looks forward to preaching, but also to hearing confessions, which he said “is partly scary, but one of the things that draws me to the priesthood. We all have obstacles in our hearts to really loving God and our neighbors,” and he looks forward to participating in the “spiritual healing of being able to remove those obstacles and help reconcile people to the Lord.” 

Meanwhile, Deacon McShurley wants St. Agnes parishioners to know that he’s looking forward to meeting the community. Maybe it’s a small thing, but he wanted them to know “I’m already praying for them, and the grace that I’ll be a faithful priest,” he said.

Miller can be reached at Leslie.Miller@catholicherald.com or on Twitter at @LMillerACH.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020