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May 28, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 15
 

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photo: Deacon Sean M. PrinceSean Prince: Family has deep roots in Norfolk church

For Deacon Sean M. Prince dedication to parish life has been his family’s way of life for generations.

The Prince Family are members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norfolk, where Sean, at the guiding hand of Father John Dorgan, then pastor, was baptized, received first communion, and prepared for his confirmation.

Though always dedicated to the church, Deacon Prince’s calling was not always so clear. He was a student at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC before he seriously began to consider a calling to the priesthood.

“Father Joe (Metzger) called me out on it,” he said of the pastor at Norfolk’s Blessed Sacrament Church. “Every time I saw him, he’d say I would be a priest one day and I didn’t need to worry about what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”

The elder of two children, Sean grew up surrounded by active participants in the Norfolk Catholic community. His father William “Art” Prince is a long-time board member of the Barry Robinson Center and serves on the board at St. Patrick Catholic School.

Deacon Prince’s mother, Kimberly Prince, inspired a family connection with North Carolina that has led his sister Colleen to study to be a physician’s assistant at Duke. It is also how he arrived at Wake Forest University to study history and political science following his graduation from Norfolk Collegiate in 1999.

After graduating from college in 2003, he accepted a job as a research associate for the Corporate Executive Board a company in Washington known for hiring college graduates with a strong liberal arts background. He later joined the Human Resources Department at BearingPoint, formerly KPMG Consulting.

“I was church hopping when I found this great Mass at the Cathedral on Sunday evenings,” he said. “My job was great, but it still didn’t feel right. I was beginning to realize I wasn’t doing what God wanted me to do with my life.”

He “chatted a few times” with the priest at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington about a priestly vocation, but continued to search for other ideas about what God might be asking him to do. Although the priesthood was always on the list, he struggled with the sacrifices he knew he would have to make.

“Then I began thinking at Mass what I might say during a homily,” he said, “That’s when it hit me. I could be doing that one day.”

In 2006 he began seminary formation at Theological College at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. It was not until his first summer assignment at St. Bridget Church in Richmond that he said he was able to fully discern God’s role for him as a parish priest.

Deacon Prince’s summer assignments included St. Andrew’s Church in Roanoke, his pastoral year back at St. Bridget, and in the summer of 2011 with a cluster of parishes that included Good Shepherd in Lebanon, St. Therese in St. Paul, and St. Mary in Coeburn. During that time in southwestern Virginia he gained clearance to a maximum security prison, allowing him a chance to experience prison ministry.

Of that part of Virginia often referred to as Appalachia, Deacon Prince said, “It is a beautiful region of our diocese and there is a rich history of the missionary work involving the Glenmary Fathers.”

“I get immense energy from being around people,” he said. “Even now serving as Deacon at Baptisms and preaching is a great source of energy for me.”

In addition to his parish assignment in southwest Virginia during the summer of 2011, Deacon Prince was also involved in the Diocesan Summer Workcamp and then spent three and a half weeks in China and Hong Kong on a trip sponsored by Maryknoll during the order’s 100th anniversary.

“My one goal in any parish will be to be effective in bringing people closer to Christ,” said Deacon Prince. “That is my one aspiration, and hopefully they will fall more in love like I have.”

The newly ordained Father Prince will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 3, at 4:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart in Norfolk.

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