June 2, 2014
Father Larry Rice is a happy man, a happy priest and a happy Paulist – and has been so for the past 25 years.
“I love what I do, and I love being a priest,” said Father Rice, 53, who currently serves as the community’s vocation director and director of St. Mary’s on the Lake, the Paulist retreat center on Lake George, N.Y.
Father Rice is looking forward to overseeing his third season at the lake after serving on the Paulist leadership team for four years as the community’s first consultor.
“Serving your brother priests changes your perspective,” explained the 53-year-old Star Trek enthusiast. “You become aware of the humanity of each person – their sorrows and joys, their mistakes and triumphs.”
Serving as first consultor also meant getting a glimpse of the impact the Paulists have on the communities in which they serve and on individual lives.
“Everywhere I traveled to visit parishes, campus ministries and centers, people would always tell me how important the Paulists are to their community, how grateful they are for the Paulist ministry and how much hope they have for the future,” said Father Rice, who is soon coming upon his first anniversary as the Paulist vocation director.
“I have a lot of enthusiasm about Paulist ministry, so it is easy for me to communicate that to men who might be considering a Paulist vocation,” said the self-admitted foodie who enjoys brewing his own beer. “They can understand what being a Paulist might mean to them.”
The advent of new communications tools and the like has changed the face of vocations over the past 20 years, according to Father Rice.
“It used to be that vocations came through direct personal contact with the religious order at your parish or school,” he explained. “Now people are doing research, and most of that happens online.
To increase vocations for the Paulists, Father Rice plans a “strong and consistent presence online and in social media” and to reach out to organizations and attend conferences that attract Catholic young adults, such as the Focus conference that is attended by some 25,000 college students.
As for his own calling to the priesthood, you might call Father Rice the surprise Paulist. The future priest was in his second year of computer science studies at Penn State University when he found himself filling out a reply card to the Paulists he found in the Penn State chapel lobby.
“It hit me all at once,” he said. “I was surprised, and so was everybody else. There was no thinking about it. There was no talking about it. It was undeniable.”
Father Rice changed his major from computer science to general arts and sciences after his decision to pursue the priesthood. He graduated in 1893 and entered the Paulist novitiate the same year, then headed to Washington, D.C., to continue his Paulist formation and begin theological studies at the Catholic University of America.
Father Rice served his diaconal year at St. Peter Church in Toronto, Canada, and was ordained on May 13, 1989 at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.
Father Rice’s first assignment was as associate pastor at Good Shepherd Church in New York City, where he served from 1989-90. He then headed to Washington, D.C., where he would minister at what would come to be known as Paulist Media Works. At Paulist Media Works, Father Rice put his communications skills to use doing radio and television production, facilitating satellite conferences, and producing educational and promotional videos for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, religious communities and nonprofits. He was also involved in Web design, Internet consultation, database development and crisis communications management.
Campus ministry in Columbus beckoned Father Rice in 2002, serving as pastoral associate at the St. Thomas More Newman Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus. He became the center’s director in 2004, and served there until being selected as the community’s first consultor in 2010.
And after 25 years of priesthood, Father Rice remains energetic and enthusiastic about his vocation.
“Both the Paulist as a community and I as an individual have an impact on people’s lives,” he said. “We may not recognize it or appreciate at the time, and we may never be aware of it, but it is there.”