St. Pius X Parish in Northwest Portland hosted a panel of three senior priests last month during a week of prayer for vocations.

Msgr. Don Buxman, Father Pat McNamee and Father Rick Sirianni told an audience they would be priests all over again, even though some days were tough.

“What an amazing thing it is to be a part of,” said Msgr. Don Buxman, who was ordained in 1970.

Msgr. Buxman said he is still learning constantly how to be a priest. The best teachers, he explained, have been the people in the pews.

“It is grace beyond grace to share in your lives,” Msgr. Buxman said. “It is something I will take to the grave with me, that joy.”

As a pastor in Milwaukie, he was called to tend hospital patients day and night. He got into the habit of sleeping with a phone at his bedside. Sometimes he would not feel like going, but on the way back home, he always felt blessed.

Father McNamee said he has cherished the community of other priests, especially now at St. John Vianney residence in Beaverton, where all three men live. He also is grateful to come preside at St. Pius X and pray with the people. Over the years, having supportive families in parishes got him through, he said.

His advice to young priests: “Have a good time with the people.”

Father McNamee predicts a return to young people testing out vocations to priesthood and religious life. The Holy Spirit, he said, will blow away some of the cultural fog that has blocked discernment.

Father Sirianni said the most important factor in vocations is for someone to ask young people if they gave considered priesthood or consecrated life. A priest at Central Catholic asked him and that convinced him to give it a try.

Father Sirianni spent 23 years as a chaplain for the Oregon Air National Guard. Three times, Father Sirianni was posted at the U.S. hospital in Germany that treats soldiers hurt in Middle East fighting. “I was not prepared for what I would see. It was horrific,” he said, but in the next breath uttering deep gratitude for that ministry. “I learned a lot about how to be a pastor from the military,” Father Sirianni said. He has deep admiration for the generation of soldiers who laid down their lives for the rest of us.

In senior status, all three men have stayed busy. They fill in at parishes, say Masses in convents and counsel former parishioners. “Retirement” is a word that does not really suit them.

All three said they are grateful for celibacy, which helped them enter the lives of many families and have a unique spiritual journey. They say they have not felt isolated.

“The people of God won’t let you be lonely,” Father Sirianni said. “They keep an eye on you.”

Father McNamee said that many families have welcomed him into their bustling homes, which energized him.

“Believe me I have a lot of moms out there,” quipped Msgr. Buxman.

Father Sean Weeks, pastor of St. Pius X, said the three priests have mentored him.

“These men,” Father Weeks said, “proved to me you can be a priest and live with joy.”

To watch the video