Faith, family and priestly fraternity guide Deacon Stephen Battey to priesthood

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EAST PROVIDENCE — Deacon Stephen Battey remembers the exact moment when he felt he knew precisely where God was calling him to be. Attending a discernment retreat at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, became a turning point for Stephen as he took the leap of faith that has lead him to his ordination day — this Saturday, June 3.

Stephen said that he always envisioned himself being a father one day, in the traditional sense, having always had the examples of a very loving and caring family as his guide.

“I always looked at my family growing up and I always had such a great love for them and great appreciation for them. I just assumed I would just do this one day. That’s what I had in mind. And then questions just kept coming up, the thought of priesthood, and I just could not get rid of it,” he said smiling.

He shared that he went on the discernment weekend to prove to himself that this is not the way of life he was being called to, and as it turned out, the exact opposite happened.

“The retreat really put me at peace. Going through the seminarian’s way of life just resonated with me. Those sentiments of wanting to be a father, providing for a family and being a role model, very easily and very naturally transitioned into being a spiritual father. I still look to my own father as that example. The kind of father that he was to me is the kind of father that I want to be to my parishioners one day. They have all just been very supportive of me and I don’t take that for granted. I appreciate their example very much.”

The son of Mark and Mary Ellen (Mimi) Battey and older brother to Brian, of North Kingstown, Stephen entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence in 2011 and attended Providence College where he received a B.A. degree in Philosophy. In 2013, he was assigned to continue his seminary formation at St. John Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts. After his diaconate ordination, Stephen served as a deacon at St. Margaret Church in East Providence as he continued his formation for priesthood ordination.

A year before her son began discerning, Mimi, a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi of Wakefield, joined Apostolate of Mary, Mother of Priests, whose mission it is to pray for vocations to the priesthood. She explained how important it is for families to know that it’s OK to encourage young people toward religious life.

“We pray that everyone keeps planting the seeds,” she said. “And for those thinking about religious life, don’t dismiss the thought of vocation, think about it pray about it. The world is our boot camp for heaven, but it can be joyful work. We hope and pray for him and the other two men being ordained that they have joyful work. It’s a very humbling blessing for us on this journey. Our son will be that very kind and pastoral priest. Ordination is just the beginning.”

In terms of his own ministry going forward, Stephen wants to pay forward the kindness and brotherly example that other priests, many who served as assistant pastors at his parish of St. Francis of Assisi, have shown him.

“I had a string of assistant pastors coming out of the seminary that were on fire for the faith and really took care of me as I was going through this process,” he said. “All the things they did for me are exactly the things I want to do for the future seminarians…answering their questions, buying them their first breviary set to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. All these priests were very fraternal to me and I’ve really just appreciated their example.”

For Stephen, one of the things that is incredibly important to him is his friendships and priestly fraternity. He shared that whenever he has free time, his first thought is to call a friend and arrange a lunch to catch up. In other free time, he has nurtured a love of art which grew from sketching to painting sacred icons, a way to incorporate prayer time and free time into one. He also enjoys keeping up with the latest and greatest of new technology and social media.

“I love going in the Apple store and seeing what’s new,” he said. “I look at new technology as an avenue for future evangelization.”

In this final week of spiritual preparation before priestly ordination, Stephen and his fellow seminarians take part in a silent retreat. He will also practice for his first Mass, pray about the promises he will make as a priest, and reflect on his spiritual journey over these past six years.

“It’s a privileged time and I’m really looking forward it,” he said. “This retreat is an opportunity for all three of us to reflect on all of the certain ways that God has prepared us and lead us to this moment.”

From the first day of seminary, no matter where he was, or where he has traveled, Stephen has always had two things on his bedside table: An icon of the Blessed Mother and a small crucifix.

“The Blessed Mother has always been right there throughout this entire process and I certainly plan on keeping that tradition of bringing them along wherever I go,” he said. “That sense of her guardianship over the church continuing on, especially in this year devoted to Mary, is so crucial to have her intercession that will lead us to her son.”

Father Battey will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Wakefield on June 4 at 4 p.m.

Three transitional deacons will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 3 at 10:00 am in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence will preside at the ordination of Deacons Stephen M. Battey, Brian J. Morris and Jean Joseph Brice. In preparation for the ordination, a Holy Hour for priestly vocations will take place at Holy Apostles Church in Cranston, on Friday, June 2, at 7:00 p.m. with Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans presiding.

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