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God continually calls – at any age

copping    Forty-two. According to Douglas Adams in his trilogy “A Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” that is the answer to “life, the universe and everything.” It was also the age of my wife when I met her.  It was the age I was when she died.  And it was twice my age when I first entered the seminary. I also have a similar distinction of having the name “Francis” associated in some way with all my pastoral assignments.

    Seventeen years passed between my first leaving the seminary and my return. I knew that I had a vocation, but I left to get more experience in the world, always expecting to return. Marriage seemed to have put an end to a priestly vocation, so I prayed about a vocation to the permanent diaconate. “It would be the perfect fit,” I thought.  “I could be married and do ministry!”
    That was not in God’s plan.  I was in retail – selling, managing and purchasing furniture for the largest family-owned furniture company in New Orleans. Ever since the repeal of the blue laws, Sunday was no longer a day of rest. It was just another workday. When faced with choosing God or mammon, God had to wait until I put food on the table, provided medical care to my sick wife and paid the bills.  Any time that could have been used for ministry while not at work was spent being present to my wife. There was no way that I could become a deacon.  My ministry was my marriage.
    My wife knew that I had a vocation, but she was not ready to give me back because she needed me more at that time than the church. She would often ask me, “What will you do after I die?” I would respond back to her, “You’ll probably outlive me.”  She would answer, “You know that’s not true.” I would then tell her, “I’ll probably go back to the seminary.” Any married woman would love to hear that more than “I’ll get remarried.” No woman after her death would object to giving her husband to Holy Mother Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary; but many would object to him taking another woman in matrimony.
    Well, we both got what we wanted. Judy got a husband who loved her “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” I received the same from my wife. I also gained the life experiences I was missing and, thanks to the call of our beloved archbishop, my vocation to the priesthood of Jesus Christ is now upon me.
    What I would like to say to any young man out there in the middle of his life or to any younger man still in grammar school and all ages in between is this:  God calls at all ages. He continues to call throughout life. You can let it go to voice mail or to the spam folder or you can try to turn down the volume or unplug the phone; but he never gives up calling us to our particular vocation in life.
    If you are a single man or a widower, please listen to see if God is calling you to the priesthood or religious life. It is a good and blessed life. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Age: 45
Birthplace: New Orleans
Home Parish: Resurrection of Our Lord Church, New Orleans
Parents: Leon and Mary Frances Copping of New Orleans. Also, I have three older brothers.
Education: H.C. Schaum­burg Elementary; St. James Major Elementary; Brother Martin High School (1985);  St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, La. (bachelor of arts in 1991). Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies (1991), Notre Dame Seminary (1991-93); Continuing Pastoral Education at St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. (1993); entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2010.
Favorite Food: Anything Italian, especially muffalettas.
Tell us something people don’t know about you: I’m learning to sew.
Favorite Saint: St. Francis of Assisi. I admire him for his simplicity, humility, gentleness and compassion.
Favorite Book (Religious and Non-religious): “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A’Kempis and “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Hobbies: N-scale model trains and collecting theological books.
Summer Internships: St. Francis de Sales (1992). Institute of Priestly Formation (2011).
Diaconate Internship: St. Francis of Assisi, New Orleans
First Mass: June 2, 11:30 a.m., St. Francis of Assisi, New Orleans.
First Priestly Assignment: St. Anselm, Madisonville, July 1.
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