Born and raised in Grants, NM, Mitchell Brown has desired to be a priest since the 4th grade, when he was a young altar server. On Saturday, June 09, that dream became a reality when Bishop James Wall ordained him as the newest priest for the Diocese of Gallup.
A few days before his ordination, Fr. Mitchell spoke with the Voice about his family, background, and emotions as his ordination day drew near.
Voice of the Southwest: What are you most looking forward to about being a priest?
Brown: There are obviously the two answers of Mass and Confessions. But the thing that personally I look forward to – and I don’t even know how often I’ll get to do this – is preaching retreats. Because I love preaching, and at the Diaconate that was one of the special graces I asked for – to be able to preach well. Fulton Sheen is one of my big heroes and patrons, and I’ve always been very Dominican at heart. You know, the “Order of Preachers”. So as a priest, I look forward to giving parish missions.
VoSW: What is like to serve in the Diocese where you grew up?
Well, knowing that I’m one of four priests in the Diocese, from the Diocese, I’m excited about it on that level. When I was flying in from Rome the other day, just seeing the landscape and realizing there’s a natural beauty to this place. And then the historical beauty that there is with the Faith having been here for over 400 years, I look forward to being able to delve into that in a new way as a priest. I’ve grown up with it and you kind of take it for granted, but I look forward to immersing myself in it and learning more about it, but also being able to serve that people that I’ve gotten to know and love over the last 26 years.
VoSW: What specifically do you like about the people here, in your home Diocese?
I’ve noticed, especially having been privileged to study in Rome, that the faith here is very simple but very deep. And so the people are very willing to give themselves to it. And I think there’s a lot of potential, as a pastor, eventually. But also just being able to know that there’s some common ground to work with. I know in some Dioceses – I’ve talked to some of my friends at school – and they’re having to worry about a lot of problems that we don’t. Even though we have money problems or a priest shortage, they’re having to deal with things in schools, or maybe even in their own presbyterate. Whereas here, it seems like the mission is going well, even if slowly, and we can do a lot with the faith that’s already here and has been here for so long.
VoSW: What were you feeling on the day of your diaconate ordination?
So usually at the [Pontifical North American College] guys are ordained deacons in Rome. And so they come back in September for their fourth year, they’re ordained and then they have pretty much their diaconate in seminary. Because I was ordained early, I got a couple months at the seminary and then some time over the summer, and I realized how much it changed prayer. Obviously, there’s that promise to prayer that we make for the Divine Office, and I felt that definitely deepened and changed because I knew it was having an effect. Even if I was tired or sleepy or didn’t want to be praying – that praying does have an effect on the Church. And that kind of changed the way I saw my role as Deacon. Looking forward to the priesthood, my role is to pray for so many people that don’t or won’t – or can’t, in some cases.
But also, as soon as you’re ordained a deacon, you’re incardinated – you’re attached – to your Diocese in a new way that you haven’t been before. So going back to Rome, it was kind of hard because I realized I’m part of this Diocese now in a way that I wasn’t before. So it’s hard to go, knowing that this is my home in a different way now. Also knowing this is the home stretch, this is exciting! When I went back in September I was like “Okay, I’ve done the Deacon thing, I’m ready for priesthood!” (laughs)
VoSW: What would you say to other families about how they can foster vocations?
I think two of the biggest things are praying as a family – one, so that young children can learn about that, but also from an early age be open to God and knowing how to listen for Him and talk to Him. And then just being encouraging. I know so many of my friends in seminary, or just in general – the call was there and they heard it, but they didn’t know what to do. Either because their family didn’t appreciate it or support it, or they were just unsure how to go about living their vocation or following it. And so I think prayer and encouragement are two of the biggest things a family can do.
VoSW: And what’s the reaction been like from your family?
Oh, every year I’ve just seen increasing joy and excitement. And in these last few hours, few days before the ordination, I’ve even had the panoply of emotions. And so seeing in my family, too, just knowing I’ve wanted to do this since fourth grade. Knowing that they’ve seen me grow up and that this has been a constant – the stories they will tell about seeing my discernment as it went on – it’s been amazing to see both how they’ve grown and the joy that keeps deepening as time goes on, both for them and for myself.
VoSW: Tell us a little about your hobbies. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like Bluegrass music a lot. I’m not to the level of Fr. Keller yet (laughs). A lot of my good friends are from Nashville, so that helps.
I haven’t been able to do this as much, but I was in Tae Kwon Do before seminary, so that’s something I enjoy for my exercise.
But also just singing in general, I’ve been in choir pretty much every year of seminary. Whether it be family music or sacred music or country music – whatever it is, I just enjoy singing. Helps pass the time when I’m driving in this big Diocese, even when I’m just working around the house I like to sing a lot.
VoSW: What are some of your favorite books?
Well, last year for the first time I read the Chronicles of Narnia, which was very good. I didn’t really learn to appreciate literature until my first summer in Rome. I had read for school and I enjoyed that, but that was the first time I learned to read both for enjoyment and for the spiritual benefits. I also read last year The Lord of the World which was good. Just seeing how the “End Times” are [portrayed] in different takes by different authors.
I always love reading St. Thomas Aquinas. He’s the best.
VoSW: Who are some of your other favorite saints?
St. Catherine [of Siena], also a Dominican. Just her fire – the fire and zeal with which she preached the Faith and lived the Faith and converted people, brought people to Christ, and didn’t take any back talk from anybody.
But over the past few years, this Triumvirate of Saints has been helpful – St. Elijah, St. John the Baptist, and St. Athanasius. Athanasius has been my Confirmation patron, but realizing in all three of these, they give a good example, coming back to a desert Diocese where there’s a lot of work to be done. But I always think of that voice “crying in the desert”. In the Bible, the desert is both the place of demons but also where Our Lord went to redeem everything. And these saints were able to find the Lord in the desert and do great works for Him and with Him in the dryness and in the lack of faith sometimes. They were able to bring the Lord there, and find Him there, too.
VoSW: Anything else you would like to add?
Yeah, pray for me, please! I do look forward to serving the Diocese. I’ve been wanting to do this since 4th grade, so I’m ready to start doing what I’ve wanted to do for so long.
Photo Gallery: Fr. Mitchell’s Ordination