By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 22, 2010
When Father Michael Silloway was a young man, the epitome of the Catholic faith was his grandfather, a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y. His grandfather’s life of service to the Church planted a seed that grew and recently blossomed as the new priest was ordained at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
“He became the model of Catholicism for me because he was so involved with his church as a deacon,” said Father Silloway, adding that his grandfather visited the sick and those in prison, as well as assisting priests at Mass.
“He would always talk to me about what a great thing it is to have a vocation in the Church, to be serving the Lord, serving the people, and I guess that kind of rubbed off on me at an early age,” Father Silloway said. “He always said I would be the family’s little priest.”
One of four children of Lyndon and Cindy Silloway, Father Silloway grew up in Peachtree City and remained close to home most of his life. But the desire to live the ordained life wasn’t always prominent. During the years between his early encounters with his grandfather and his entrance into the seminary, Father Silloway said that desire to serve the Church “went on the back burner” before resurfacing in high school and again in college.
The 27-year-old remembers going to confession when he was in high school and hesitantly confessing this thought that he may be called to the priesthood. At the time, the teenager felt it was more like something he wanted to get off his chest rather than something he wanted to truly explore.
As Father Silloway went off to college at the University of Georgia in Athens, he felt another desire swelling up—the desire to be a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
“I wanted to fly airplanes with every fiber of my being,” said Father Silloway. “And that’s still there. If I can figure out a way to be a priest and a pilot at the same time, hallelujah.”
But being partially colorblind and asthmatic short-circuited his dream of the Air Force.
“At that point, the Lord was really able to speak to my heart and say, ‘Are you ready now to listen to what I want to tell you?’” he said.
During his first and second year of college, Father Silloway began taking initial steps toward discerning a vocation. After meeting Father Brian Higgins, then vocations director, he began attending St. John Vianney meetings, a group for young men in discernment that includes Mass, a meal and discussion with priests.
What Father Silloway found at the meetings was a group of priests who visibly loved what they were doing.
“It became a very tangible reality,” he said.
After his second year at UGA, Father Silloway felt the call growing stronger and with the advice of Father Higgins, he transferred to Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, to prepare for the seminary.
After graduating from Steubenville, Father Silloway next was sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy, where he recently completed his studies for a degree in theology.
Father Silloway said the Mass of ordination on June 26 was an emotional experience.
“I was choked up for just about the whole Mass,” he said.
Father Silloway added that the greeting of peace from the other priests was an especially moving moment. “It was a powerful sign and symbol of the unity of the priests here.”
The following day Father Silloway celebrated his first Mass at Holy Trinity Church in his hometown of Peachtree City, and while understandably a bit nervous, it concluded the weekend with a spiritually fulfilling experience for the young priest.
The consecration of the bread into the body of Christ at his first Mass was a “spiritual awakening” for him, said Father Silloway, as he realized the import of all that was truly happening.
The joyful and quick-witted priest has been assigned to St. Theresa Church in Douglasville this summer.
This fall he will return to Rome where he will complete studies for a licentiate in sacred theology and family from the John Paul II Institute.