COLUMBIA — One year after his ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood, Father Lee Selzer finds that his aspirations about the priestly life have been met, exceeded even.
“It has been all that was promised by the Vocations Office,” Father Selzer said. “It’s been beyond my expectations.”
The young priest, who once taught as a lay missioner in Belize and who holds a Licentiate of Sacred Theology degree from Mundelein University, is a pastoral associate at one of the parishes favored for training new priests, St. Joseph in Columbia. His boss and pastor, Msgr. Charles Rowland, said that Father Selzer handles a full slate of duties, including baptisms, funerals, visitations and, of course, liturgies.
“Whatever is needed, they do,” the monsignor said of his young charges. He called Father Selzer “a good man” who also leads the men’s prayer group at St. Joe’s and is involved in the arts in the Columbia community-at-large.
“He shows great patience. If people walk in, even when he’s busy, he always finds the time to take care of them,” Msgr. Rowland said.
Since Bishop Robert J. Baker desires a priestly presence at both diocesan high schools, Father Selzer found himself teaching a seventh-grade math class at Cardinal Newman School.
He enjoys being back in the classroom, he said, and his duties have evolved to include campus ministry, Stations of the Cross and the sacrament of reconciliation. His reputation has evolved also.
Sophie Hodaly is a senior at Cardinal Newman and a parishioner at St. Joseph. She agrees with Msgr. Rowland that Father Selzer is a patient man — and more.
“He’s always there to listen. And he’s dedicated. He’s passionate about his faith and about the Mass,” Hodaly said. “He’s a great priest and will be a great pastor.”
Because of the chronic priest shortage in the Diocese of Charleston, young priests are moved into pastorates early in their careers. Father Selzer himself makes a distinction between being a priest and being a pastor. According to a study, he said, it takes five years on average for a man to grow into the identity of priest; then, he might be ready to become a pastor. When he says that priest and pastor are two distinct roles, he knows what he’s talking about: He wrote his licentiate on the role of the pastor. Still, he will probably have to take on a pastor’s position before his five years are up.
“I understand the need. Fortunately, the more experienced priests of this diocese are very supportive, and I’ll be able to look to them for advice. There are many mentors who can help me through the difficult years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Father Lee Selzer is about as happy as can be in his present position. St. Joseph’s is an active parish, and the parishioners are used to having new clergy aboard. They know what a priest needs, he said.
“St. Joseph’s has been an absolutely wonderful experience,” Father Selzer said. “The people are experienced, and their secret is that they pray for their priests. Successful priests are those who are prayed for. It certainly has helped me.”