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Priest's course steady for 50 years

Monsignor John Scully remembers accompanying his mother on her monthly visits when she went door to door to neighboring Catholics, collecting 25- and 50-cent donations to benefit missions for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.

Although Scully was only 9, he said those events "planted in my soul the seed of a love of the priesthood and of foreign missions and spreading the faith."

That love of the priesthood grew for the next eight years, and at 17 he entered St. John's Seminary in Boston. He was ordained a priest at 23 by Cardinal Richard Cushing, the same priest for whom his mother collected coins for the mission.

On Wednesday, the 73-year-old pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church will mark 50 years in the priesthood.

During an early celebration for parishioners March 8, he began his sermon by stating that he felt like a mountain climber, comparing the climber's view when looking back at the panorama of God's creation to his own memories of the panorama of Christ's priesthood.

Both panoramas are breathtaking, Scully said.

Scully believes the call to the priesthood is supernatural.

"To me, it was a way of helping people in their lives on earth, caring for the sick, teaching Christ's words, baptizing and giving the sacraments," he said. "Leading people to happiness that comes from meeting God here on earth and leading them to eternal life in heaven."

Scully said his family was pleased with his vocation; they felt the work of the priest is something no profession can equal because it helps heal souls.

Did he ever want for a real, personal family life? "No, I never wanted to turn back and have always enjoyed the friendship of the Lord intimately," Scully said.

"Jesus Christ's promise to those who follow him and give up family, home and possessions was that he would reward them 100-fold in this life and give them special rewards in heaven," he said.

"I can say after 50 years, the Lord's words really are true because I've had satisfaction, peace, joy and the friendship of the Lord more than I could have gotten familywise."

Scully said some of the most enjoyable periods of priesthood have been his mission trips to Kenya, Sudan and other parts of Africa. He began these trips in the summer of 1972 and tries to return every other year to provide catechisms for various missions, raise money for chapels and baptize people.

Scully speaks Swahili and Kikuyu, which "I use to baptize and say mass."

He returns because "it's a tremendous experience, seeing the universality of the church. Seeing another culture and how beautiful the people are and (seeing) their tremendous hunger for baptism and the Eucharist."

What are his most memorable moments during the past 50 years?

"Baptizing and giving sacraments to people who are dying. I also think of when I baptized 168 adults in Kenya in a single day."

Is Scully considering retirement after such a long tenure?

No. "I take life a day at a time and leave it in the hands of the Lord. Jesus Christ has given me good health, and I'm happy in my work and I love it."