By MICHAELA MULQUEEN, Special to the Bulletin | Published September 30, 2022
ATLANTA—Father Avery Daniel was one of four men ordained to the priesthood on May 28. This day was full of profound joy for all, but especially for Father Daniel, a Georgia native for whom this day was a decade in the making.
Daniel was nearing the end of his junior year of high school when he first recognized that God might be calling him to the priesthood. It wasn’t until a late night of adoration during his freshman year of college, however, that he knew with certainty. Father Daniel recalls that he felt restless and frustrated as he prayed that night. All he wanted was for God to tell him what to do.
owever, much to his surprise, no command came. Instead, he heard God say, “I want you to be a priest. Will you do that for me?”
Father Daniel explains that it is easier than we think to discern our vocations.
“God has always known what he wants for each of us to do, and he wants us to know because that’s what’s going to make us happy. And so, it’s very simple. Ask God for the grace, be open to it all, and you’ll know,” he said.
At age 19, he entered the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, for college seminary. Father Daniel credits his three years there with helping him to develop a strong foundation in both habits and knowledge. This time also allowed for him and his peers to authentically discern their callings. By the end of the time at the Josephinum, there was no doubt in his mind that he would one day be a priest.
Upon finishing his degree, Father Daniel planned to continue on to major seminary at the Josephinum and enter the Navy as a chaplain candidate. Then-Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory had other plans. He wished for the seminarian to continue his studies at the North American College in Rome.
Father Daniel’s time in Italy came with its share of challenges—not the least of which was having to learn Italian in a short amount of time and subsequently attend lectures given solely in Italian. However, he describes his time there as a great gift. He was able to study theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University alongside men and women from all over the world. Together, they learned to view theology not just from an academic perspective but also as a place to encounter God and even as a form of prayer under leading theologians, many of whom worked for the Holy See.
Halfway through his five years in Rome, Father Daniel was sent back to Georgia for a pastoral year at St. Clare of Assisi Church in Acworth. For him, this time was instrumental in not only learning the practical ins and outs of parish life but also the ministerial and personal sides. He still draws upon much he learned during that time.
After returning to Rome and completing his degree, the archbishop encouraged the young man to continue on and receive an advanced degree in seminary formation. Father Daniel ended up completing his final exams for this degree right as COVID began spreading through Europe. Leading up to the pandemic, the Archdiocese of Atlanta was without an archbishop due to Cardinal Gregory being reassigned to the Archdiocese of Washington. Unfortunately for Avery, this meant he had to wait a year and a half before being ordained a deacon.
He spent this time at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, which would turn out to be incredibly educational.
Father Daniel said, “Unexpected though it was, I look back and see all the things that the Lord allowed to unfold that were just really great learning experiences for me pastorally and that made me so much better prepared for ordained life.”
He was ordained to the transitional diaconate in February 2021. Soon after, Father Daniel received a call from Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, who asked him to serve as chaplain for Blessed Trinity High School.
“It was a great blessing, a great learning experience for me. It was an unusual kind of trajectory to becoming a priest, to say the least, but it is one that I wouldn’t trade,” Father Avery said of his time as a chaplain.
Thanks to the experiences of the past decade, once the day of Father Avery’s ordination arrived, he felt beyond prepared. Reflecting upon his ordination Mass, he said, “There was this sense of completion…it was just extremely joyful and beautiful.”
Father Daniel began serving in July as the parochial vicar for St. Joseph Church in Athens and St. Catherine Labouré Church in Jefferson.