~from the Raleigh News Observer, here's another vocations story from a newly-ordained priest in our diocese.
The Rev. Anthony DeCandia came into the Roman Catholic Church on a double dog dare.
A classmate at N.C. State University prodded him to try out an introductory class at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary.
DeCandia, a Methodist from Charlotte, took the challenge.
"My name is Tony," he told the class. "I'm not here to become a Catholic. I only want to learn the truth."
By the end of the nine-month class, he found that truth. In 1994, he became a full member of the church during the Easter vigil.
Six years later, he completed an application to become a priest -- becoming yet another convert so enamored of the Catholic Church that he was ready to devote his life to it. In doing so, he was representative of many men who become priests in midlife after pursuing other careers.
An extrovert who makes friends easily and laughs heartily, DeCandia said his friends helped him discern his calling. He had dropped out of the mechanical engineering program at NCSU and taught tennis for six years.
Along the way, he realized, people were confiding in him and asking for his advice. That was his first clue he was cut out for something beyond teaching backhands and serves.
"I started asking why do people trust me with this stuff?" said DeCandia, 35, who serves as parochial vicar at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Fayetteville.
In a regal ordination ceremony two months ago, DeCandia lay prostrate on the floor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill as prayers were offered for his ministry. He then knelt as Bishop Michael F. Burbidge placed his hands on DeCandia's head and anointed the palms of his hands with holy oil.
For DeCandia, the priesthood is an opportunity to share others' joys and trials. He is particularly interested in ecumenical relations. On July 10, DeCandia started his new job. So far, he has performed two funerals, counseled a couple about to marry, visited the sick in the hospital and attended a play in which many of his parishioners are involved. This weekend, he will perform two baptisms in addition to his regular schedule of Masses.
"I haven't had time to unpack," DeCandia said. He doesn't fret about how he is doing.
"More than any book or class, the people will teach me how to be a priest," he said. "You have to be open to how God can use other people to help you grow."