After a decade of service at Nativity Catholic Church, Father Arthur Proulx celebrated his last day as pastor at the Brandon parish May 4.
In March, at the request of Bishop Robert Lynch, Proulx accepted a position as spiritual director to the seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. He will begin training for the position immediately, with his start date set for August.
A standing-room-only crowd attended Proulx's farewell Mass, and the church honored him afterward with a going-away party.
Proulx said as a new generation of strong and faithful leaders step up to join the priesthood, their education determines the future of the church. I recently asked him about the importance of seminaries to the Catholic Church and his bittersweet departure.
Why is seminary education vital to the Catholic Church?
Because priests play such an important role in the lives of every Catholic, it is important for them to have a good formation, a good spiritual formation and a good academic formation.
Is there a push within the Catholic Church to get more men to enter the seminary? Are the numbers increasing or decreasing?
Actually, the number of men studying for the diocese and the priesthood in Florida and the nation has been up now the last six years. At St. John's, where I am going in Miami, we have a record number, not a large number, but about 100 students from around the state. The number outgrew campus housing so we had to buy two houses for them. So, yes we need more priests but we are also experiencing a noticeable increase in the number of priests.
Why do you think more men today are interested in joining the priesthood?
I think it's the work of the Holy Spirit. These men are very high-quality students. They have a genuine desire to be holy and be good leaders. It's amazing.
What will you miss most about working at Nativity?
Probably the family activities. I will miss working with people of various ages. In my new position, I will be working mainly with college-age individuals.
How has your time at Nativity impacted you personally?
I have learned the importance of family life in spreading the Gospel and the importance of faith formation among adults. I have learned to be more observant, to be a better listener and be more patient. That is what I take with me. I have really been inspired and encouraged by the faith of my parishioners.
What is your advice to the new pastor?
I told him just to listen and observe. It's a great parish. Mostly, all our folks need is encouragement.
What will you miss about Tampa?
Well, I grew up in the Tampa Bay area. For me, it is home. Being on a college schedule, I will still be here somewhere on all of my breaks. The whole area is like a comfortable shoe. I will be back.
Sarah Whitman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.