Meet Our Newly Ordained Priests
By Katie Fiermonti, Photography by Jeff Dachowski
Father David Harris
Father David Harris felt love and support surround him during his ordination to the priesthood in June. As he stood in St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester, the enormity of the moment hit him.
“It was like trying to take a sip from a waterfall or a fire hydrant,” he says. “There was so much grace, love and excitement. But amidst all that ‘overwhelmingness,’ there was a feeling of steadiness. I felt I was exactly where I was meant to be.”
Father David was vested at his ordination by Father Paul Gousse, his mentor. It was the culminating occasion of a rather unusual career path to the priesthood.
Born and raised in Rye by parents Michael and Andrea, Father David and his sister had what he calls a normal childhood on New Hampshire’s Seacoast. His mother was always a particularly devout Catholic, and Father David grew up attending Mass regularly, and also attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover before enrolling at Providence College. After graduation, he worked as a staff member for Senator John Sununu in Washington, D.C. At first, working at the fast-paced center of national politics was something that he found thrilling. But something just wasn’t right.
“It was a very fun and exciting time,” says Father David. “But around then, I started thinking about the priesthood. After two years on Capitol Hill, I moved back to New Hampshire and worked in marketing, but I was also getting more invested with my faith. I was reading more about the saints, praying. It ended up being a seven-year vocation journey for me. Priests could see that vocation in me. My friends at Providence could see it! But I couldn’t as easily. I started spending time with the sisters at St. Charles Children’s Home in Rochester. And what I realized, painfully, was that I was fighting my own happiness. That call from God just didn’t go away. And so in 2011, I finally decided to make a phone call to the diocese. I don’t think it was a huge surprise to my friends and family.”
Once the decision was made, Father David says the doubts he’d been experiencing were finally silenced. At St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., he found his true calling. He credits his parents and the Blessed Mother for guiding him. “A very special part of my vocation is through the Virgin Mary. I have no doubt my call came from her. Her intercession and protection have been indispensable. I’d recommend any young man to have a relationship with her. She’s the mother of priests and she’ll lead you to her son.”
He describes his relationship with God as a grateful learning process, of letting him in and relying on him more. “I strive to be a beloved son who is dependent on the Father for everything. That burden – that heaviness in my old life – our Lord wants to take that away. I can surrender. There’s a freedom that comes with a religious vocation. It comes from God. There’s not a career path attached to it. The reality is that it’s all about the Lord, what he wants me to do. So it’s a peace and a surrender.”
This past year Father David served as a transitional deacon at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Rochester and at St. Leo Parish in Gonic. He has now begun his work as a priest at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Bedford where he hopes to manifest his love for God and the Blessed Mother in the way he carries out his new duties. “I love the joy that comes from bringing somebody close to God, or helping them understand God’s role in their life,” said Father David, who also enjoys sports, travel, and art. “The joy they experience affects my life, too. There’s nothing I could do that’s more meaningful or powerful.”
Father Matthew Schultz
The parishioners of St. Michael’s in Exeter may be surprised to know that their new priest, Father Matthew Schultz, can juggle. Not just his daily parish responsibilities once he starts at St. Michael’s. He can literally juggle. “I once worked at a school in Spain that had a juggling troupe,” he laughs. “And I love music too – I can play guitar and banjo.”
This multitalented priest was just ordained in early June, and is eager to “take care of his flock,” as he puts it. Father Matthew’s path to the priesthood has been circuitous, but rooted in a strong family faith tradition. One of thirteen children growing up in upstate New York to parents Michael and Jane, Catholicism was something to be lived every day.“Faith was central growing up,” Father Matthew recalls. “My brothers and sisters were involved in sports, and there were two rules: you had to be home for dinner, and you had to be home for the rosary every night. I started going to daily Mass with my mom, and when I was eight, my uncle became a priest. And I have a brother who is a priest, as well as a sister who is a nun with the Nashville Dominicans.”
Though he was a devout young Catholic, other interests crowded out any ideas of a priestly vocation. “As I got older, I was quite the romantic,” he grins. “And then you meet girls. You think about marriage. It took me awhile to figure out. The big turning point for me was attending the University of Dallas. I saw faith in action there, faith that was universal and attractive. I saw the pursuit of truth as revealed by Christ.”
While the priesthood wasn’t an idea he was completely willing to ignore, Father Matthew worked a variety of jobs and had numerous experiences throughout and after school, including at a vineyard, on ranches, traveling in France, and teaching at a boarding school. “Priesthood was always in the back of my mind.” He was working on a gas rig when a friend of his was killed on the job. “It was very tragic,” he remembers. “At that time, I started rethinking the priesthood. I just realized that nothing else would satisfy the longing in my heart. What it comes down to is, I finally listened to the voice in my heart. It’s hard to hear that in today’s world.”
So he made a retreat in Pennsylvania, took a job located at Thomas More College, and met and sought advice from Father Jason Jalbert, the Diocese’s Director of the Office of Vocations and the Office for Worship. As a result, Father Matthew entered St. John Seminary in Brighton, Mass., in 2013. He was vested at ordination by his brother, Father James Schultz. “One of my heroes, St. Ignatius of Loyola, says the greatest sin is ingratitude. I am so thankful to my parents for all their support, and to Bishop Libasci.”
He began his new Exeter assignment after a family pilgrimage to Fatima, and is looking forward to all the hiking offered to him here in New Hampshire.
“What do I love about my faith? I love to know that I’m loved infinitely by God,” he says. “I love Mary. I have really come to know and appreciate Mary and the role she’s played in my life. I think confession and forgiveness are essential. You’ve got to keep going to confession.”
“My goal is to become a great saint, to be a good shepherd,” says Father Matthew. “From God will come everything else.”