May 17, 2017
Paulist Deacon Stuart Wilson-Smith uses the word “adventure” to describe his seminary days with the Paulist Fathers, and how he envisions his life as a priest. He’ll be ordained on May 20, 2017.
“When I look at the places I’ve been assigned just in the short time of formation, the things I’ve been able to experience, and the people I’ve been able to meet, it’s just pretty remarkable,” says Deacon Stuart, a native of New Brunswick in Eastern Canada.
In fact, He’s the first person in his family to move from Canada. “So that’s something. Living in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States, is a big deal,” he said.
During his time in seminary, Deacon has worked with Paulist campus ministers in Austin, TX, and Columbus, OH. He studied clinical pastoral education at New York University Medical Center, and was in the chaplaincy at Georgetown Hospital.
Last summer, the Paulists even gave Stuart a two-month stay at their Lake George, NY, home so that he could write music. Stuart’s a longtime guitarist, drummer and singer. He says his gifts don’t lie in the realm of liturgical music. But his bass-baritone voice, reminiscent of Crash Test Dummies’ lead Brad Roberts is certainly soulful.
“Doubt, problems with faith, and struggle,” are the focus of his original compositions. At Lake George, he says, “I was reflecting on some of my experiences in hospital ministry. So I was in clinical pastoral education, had some tough experiences there. It’s like, how do we experience tragedy in our lives and how do we reckon with what God is or isn’t doing in those moments?”
Service is always at the core of Stuart’s adventures and creative pursuits. He says that from the time he was young, he wanted his life to be focused on helping others. It was later that he decided that his life of service would take the form of the priesthood.
“I was looking for a way to be a priest that was missional, that was outward-oriented,” Deacon Stuart says. “It’s not that I didn’t care to be that traditional model of — like a shepherd — or the idea that you’re gonna baptize someone and then follow them through the sacraments through their whole life. It’s not that I entirely find that unappealing, but I was looking for something that was a sense of adventure.”
Stuart’s desire to visit places and people extends to reaching out to those who aren’t in church. He says this is in keeping with the vision of the Paulist Fathers, and of Pope Francis.
“We see who’s in the pews but who’s not in the pews,” he says. “I learned that this (The Paulist Fathers) was a community that had a real heart for people who were on, what Pope Francis calls the peripheries, people who are on the outside, marginalized, alienated.”
In the last days before Deacon Stuart is ordained, he reflects on who he wants to be as a priest.
“I think if I could just be authentic and just stay myself, I think that would be of great benefit and it would be a great blessing,” Stuart says. “That’s what I hope. And to be honest with people and to not dress up things … If people want to talk about real issues and real life I don’t want to shy from it. I don’t want topics to be off-limits. I want questions and concerns and hesitations. Let’s just put it all out there and be real about it.”