“Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it passes through the heart of a mother.” –St. Pius X
An interview with Father Henry Atem on the lessons he’s learned from his earthly mother and the Blessed Mother.
Describe the role your mother played in your spiritual life growing up.
My mother has always been a woman of Faith. Her steadfastness to the Holy Eucharist was always an inspiration for me.
What was your mother's reaction to your decision to become a priest?
She was very excited but also cautious. Since I was attending a very big university, she was a little concerned about the transition.
What is one of the most valuable or memorable pieces of advice your mother has given you?
That I should never hold a grudge against someone.
Tell me your favorite trait about your mom.
She is laid-back but also has a very calming presence about her. She is hardly ever rattled by anything or any situation.
What is your relationship like with the Blessed Mother? How does she impact your vocation as a priest?
Like with my own mother, I see her as a pillar. She offered Christ an unconditional love that his humanity needed to accomplish his divine task. I see the Blessed Mother as an indispensable companion in living out my priestly vocation. When I pray the Rosary, I always ask the Blessed Mother to help me never to be discouraged regardless of the trials and tribulations I may encounter.
What is one of the most important lessons you've learned from your Heavenly Mother?
I have learned from her that true spiritual power comes from being close to Jesus. She was always close to Christ and that was the secret of her power. I try to emulate that as much as I can.
Can you offer your brief thoughts on the importance of motherhood?
I had a relative who, at the birth of their first child, told me that motherhood is one of the closest manifestations of God’s power because the process of a woman nurturing a child in her womb and bringing that child into the world is nothing short of a miracle of God. Mothers understand us at such a profound and intimate level that the bond between a mother and child is symbolic of the bond between God and man. Motherhood is so important because it brings hope to our world. Through motherhood, we recognize that God is never too far away. He is always present even though he might seem distant sometimes.
Father Henry Atem is the Pastor of St. George Catholic Church in Newnan, Georgia