Deacon Davis is ready to be a spiritual father

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If good things come to those who wait, Deacon Colin P. Davis has a lot to look forward to. The 34-year-old has been in formation for about 14 years, first with the Legionaries of Christ and then through the Arlington Diocese.

Yet when he is received into the priesthood June 11, those years of study and prayer will be a part of him, informing his future service to God and ministry within the diocesan church.

"I've been sure about the priesthood for about 12 years, so it's been hard to be in formation that long," said Deacon Davis. "But I don't regret it."

The fifth of seven children, he was baptized at age 10 when his nonpracticing Catholic parents decided to return to the faith. After starting to attend church regularly, he felt for the first time like "God was really there," he said.

The family moved around frequently during his childhood, spending time in California, New York and Maryland before moving to Virginia. Deacon Davis attended public and later Catholic schools, enrolling at Seton School in Manassas as a senior.

At age 15, his understanding of God was intensified when he "deeply experienced God's love, especially in the Eucharist," he said. "My thought was, 'If priests' lives are all about helping people and giving others the experience of Christ in the Eucharist, that's something I'd want to do.'"

After graduating from high school and spending a year serving as a lay Legionaries of Christ missionary, he entered formation with the order. Living and working everywhere from New York and Connecticut to Phoenix and Mexico, Deacon Davis spent eight years preparing to be a Legionary priest.

The order appealed to him in part because of its clearly defined roles and focus on teamwork and hard work.

In 2009, however, Deacon Davis realized the Legionaries were not the right fit. Dispensed from his vows, he eventually discerned his calling as a diocesan priest.

He then began six more years of study and prayer to minister in the Arlington Diocese - two at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and four at the Theological College at Catholic University in Washington.

Deacon Davis said his time with the Legionaries was both a hindrance and advantage during diocesan formation.

"I was accustomed to being guided by a definite program and guidelines," he said. In diocesan formation, "you figure it out as you go."

But his background also gave him exposure to 18 U.S. dioceses, a "very disciplined and deep spiritual life," and experience putting "aside all plans (in order) to do what the church needs," he said.

The ability to put aside his own plans helped him with preaching during his diaconate year at St. Veronica Church in Chantilly. You have to first consider what parishioners' needs are, he said, and "to explain how it can be put into practice."

We can't "let the faith just be ideas," he added. "Christianity is a lifestyle."

Though he said no one can ever be "fully ready" for the priesthood, he is eager finally to fulfill his vocation. An integral part of that will be serving as "spiritual dad" of the parish family, he said, and providing the sacraments, especially baptism, the Eucharist and confession, to the family members. "What a great gift it is to provide the sacraments," said Deacon Davis, for through them a priest helps parishioners have "an encounter with Jesus Christ."

And that's something worth the wait.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016