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Date published: 6/26/2001
GROWING UP, Father Francis Peffley planned to be the manager of his parents' bookstore, the Catholic Shop. But according to Peffley, God saved a sales position for him elsewhere.
"There was never any lightning bolt or loud voices or apparition," says Peffley. "It was just a silent tugging at my heart that God wanted me to dedicate my life to serving him." So Peffley was called to become a salesman for God--except "you're not selling a product. You're selling Christ's church," he says..
As a youth, Peffley attended a Quaker school in Pennsylvania, where he was exposed to many religions. "But because I was deeply rooted in the Catholic religion, I didn't stray," he says.
In fact, his faith intensified throughout high school and then at Christendom College in Front Royal, as he was an active member of the Legion of Mary and attended daily morning Mass.
Peffley says he felt more and more called to the priesthood in the last couple of years in college. He and his girlfriend broke up, his family remained supportive, and upon his graduation, he entered the seminary at Mount St. Mary's in the Arlington Catholic Diocese--deciding to stay in Virginia rather than return home to Pennsylvania.
"Seminary is a time of discernment," says Peffley. About 60 percent of those who attend seminary actually make the commitment to get ordained to the priesthood, he says. Despite challenging classes and intense community service required by the seminary, Peffley still had time to play sports, travel, and continue his intense passion for music.
Peffley was ordained in 1990, taking three vows as a Diocesan priest: celibacy, obedience and prayer. He did not feel called to make the vows of a religious order priest, which include poverty.
"For me it wasn't so much that I didn't want to make the vow of poverty," he says. "It's that I was called to work with the parish." His salary, gas, meals and housing are paid for by the parish. "Traditionally [the salary] is not a lot of money, but it's enough to live on," he says.
Since his ordination, he has already been stationed at four parishes in the Diocese. Young priests are moved every three to four years in order to gain wisdom from different pastors, or senior priests.