CHARLESTON—Father Matthew Gray sat in his new vocations office recently, doing a mental checklist of everything he needed for a weeklong river trek to canoe and camp with Scouts.
Most of the Scouts, he said, had never done a camping trip like this so he was off to pick up some basic supplies, like ground tarps.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said, smiling happily, exuding an air of calm peace for whatever adventures were on the way.
It’s this combination of positive energy and tranquility that helped make him the perfect candidate for his new role as Vicar of Vocations.
Ordained July 1, 2011, Father Gray has spent a large chunk of the past nine years working with youth, both at St. Gregory the Great Church and School in Bluffton and St. Joseph Church and School in Columbia. He’s also served as Scout chaplain since 2013.
Recently, he said, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone pulled him aside and said he had “a crazy idea” that would tap into the young priest’s natural rapport with youth.
When Father Gray heard the proposal, he was immediately on board. In addition to serving as the new Vicar for Vocations, he will also remain as Scout chaplain and serve as chaplain at The Citadel in Charleston.
His military background was also a plus. Father Gray was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served as a chaplain with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Richland County. In 2017, he was promoted to captain.
He said he loves that ministry, and is excited now to juggle the civilian and military aspects of serving God.
“I can proclaim Christ anywhere in the world and not be stopped by a military gate,” he said.
Father Gray takes over from Father Mark Good, who had a dual role as vicar for vocations and administrator of St. Benedict Church in Mount Pleasant.
“He is prayerful, kind, and genuinely seeks whatever is best for the church,” Father Good said. “These young men will see a kindred shepherd in Father Matthew.”
With the new assignment, Father Gray will not have parish duties. “My parishioners are the seminarians,” he said, joking that they’re as much work as a parish.
He currently has 15 seminarians in the fold, plus Scouts and Citadel cadets, said Valerie Gore, coordinator of Vocations.
“He’s really a wonderful priest,” she said. “He’s already doing great things.”
Father Gray plans to promote vocations in part by visiting all the parishes. He said he’ll celebrate all the Masses, giving the priest a respite and himself a chance to talk about discernment. He also plans to visit schools and universities, and to meet with youth and young adult groups.
Social media will also be an important tool. The vicar noted all the negativity in the media and said he wants to represent how beautiful the priesthood is through YouTube videos and other platforms.
“It’s a real honor to be able to help people in their discernment, to figure out God’s call for them in life,” Father Gray said.