The tables were turned, and at age 24 I was checking my 62-year-old dad into his college dorm room. To be exact, I was taking him to St. John’s Seminary, where he would get his master’s degree in theology and be ordained as a Catholic priest.
Just a few short years ago, he had dropped me off with my backpack, stereo, and albums to attend my first year of school at Michigan State University.
We walked into the lobby of the seminary and approached the front desk. I announced, “I am here with my dad, Thomas Brennan. He is supposed to check in today.”
My dad and I stood there waiting as the woman at the desk scanned the short list for his name. “Welcome, Mr. Brennan. Your room is just down the hall on the right-hand side. Here is your key. You are welcome to take your belongings down to the room.”
I will never forget walking with my dad down the hall towards his room. We came upon his door and opened it to find what you see in all dorm rooms: a bed and a desk. I looked at the spartan room with its tile floor, single bed on a steel frame, and traditional school desk as we stood there with Dad’s computer, bags, and books. Here was a guy who had at the time sold his home, sold his accounting business, and taken a leap of faith to start a new chapter in his life.
A couple months earlier, he had held a family meeting about his decision to enter the priesthood. He had gathered his six children around and said, “I have always felt drawn to this. It is something I want to try and do. I am not going to sit around and wait for one of you to call. You all have your lives and you need to go live them. I am going to go pursue what I think I am supposed to do.”
After I got my dad settled into his room, the moment came to say goodbye. I thought it was so strange that here I was dropping my father at his dorm room and leaving. I gave him a big hug and told him I was proud of him. He could tell I was a bit uncertain about it all.
“Don’t worry, Mike. I am a big boy. Father Pops [a priest and mentor to my dad] always said, ‘Everything is exactly the way it should be.’ I think that is true. I will be OK. Sometimes you have to just take the leap,” he said.
Each of our lives, if we are lucky enough, has some powerful moments. Often they are those times when we ask ourselves, “What would I do if I knew I wouldn’t fail?” My father taught six kids and eighteen grandchildren to understand, “Sometimes you just need to take the leap.”
On this Father’s Day, I have gratitude to have witnessed and learned from my father’s faith, acceptance and the unique ability at any age to have the courage to jump into uncharted waters.