No Half-Way Answer
Richard Whitney, C.S.P.
Paulist seminarian Richard Whitney made his first promises as a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle on Saturday, August 13, 2016, during a special afternoon Mass in the chapel at St. Mary’s of the Lake, our summer retreat at Lake George, NY.
The Mass was the culmination of Richard’s novitiate year that began in August, 2015.
“The year flew by, which is a little surprising because I was stretched throughout all of it,” he said. “I was constantly being told to go out and do things beyond my comfort zone. I have realized just how much spiritual growth I have experienced in the past year — and how quickly I am now able to think in a spiritual fashion.”
As part of his novice year, Richard spent Lent 2016 at St. Austin Church in Austin, Texas.
“It was the most amazing experience condensed into a very short period of time,” he remembered. “I was sent there to see what a ‘regular’ parish looks like. I saw that the Paulist Fathers there work from 7:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night but it was never chaotic or rushed because of the way it is managed.”
“The people at St. Austin are so warm and friendly and accepting,” he said. “I had never been to Texas before so I had no idea what to expect. But, I think that if I were dropped at any Paulist location for six week that I would leave wanting to stay longer. The sense of mercy that the Paulists help to transmit into a congregation helps it to become an an incredibly warm, loving family.”
Richard grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. After high school, he spent 15 years working behind the scenes in theater productions in the nation’s capital, as a carpenter, technical director, production manager and master electrician. Part of that time was spent at work on Shakespeare productions at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
(His favorite work by the Bard? “A toss up between ‘Richard III’ and ‘The Tempest,’ he says.”)
In 2003, Richard moved to Boston where he earned an undergraduate history degree from Northeastern University and spent additional years in the university’s graduate history program.
From 2012 to 2015, he studied mental health counseling and addiction prevention and treatment, and became involved in a variety of work, activities and organizations in that field.
During those years, Richard met the Paulist Fathers while working on a play that was being staged in the lower level of The Paulist Center in Boston.
A cradle Catholic who had fallen away during his teen years, he had recently started going back to Mass.
“I had never heard of the Paulists,” he recalled. “I saw that the Paulists have this indescribable joy about the liturgy that I had never seen anywhere else.”
After meeting with Paulist Fr. Rick Walsh at the Paulist Center, Richard said he began to consider discerning a call to religious life. He attended the 2014 “Paulist Plunge,” the Paulist Fathers summer vocations retreat at St. Mary’s of the Lake at Lake George.
“I realized that if I really believe that I am being called, I don’t get to answer that call half way or put down conditions,” Richard said.
As of his first profession, like all Paulist seminarians, Richard will now place the Paulist Fathers’ order letters “CSP” (for Congregation of St. Paul) after his name.
“It’s the first time that I have worked this hard to put letters behind my name that didn’t include a pay raise,” he joked.