Once on track to be a doctor, Father Daly looks to heal souls

| June 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Part of a series of profiles of nine newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Father Michael Daly seemed on his way to becoming a doctor and doing mission work in Honduras.

In other words, he was following in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Peter Daly, who would frequently take his wife, LuLu, a nurse, and their four children to an orphanage in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. In 2004, the Dalys founded and started to help build the Holy Family Surgery Center at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Honduras.

The trips began when Father Daly was 11, meaning he has spent more than half of his life seeing orphaned children several times a year and watching his father and mother meet their medical needs.

That’s why he entered the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, in the fall of 2007 thinking he would pursue medical school.

But, his experiences of “seeing Jesus’ eyes in the poor” also planted the seed of a vocation to the priesthood that led to his ordination May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

In Honduras, “we wrote journals, and my parents would have us write each day,” said Father Daly, 27, whose home parish is Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul. “And, mine was very much about encountering Jesus and encountering the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.”

He also paid close attention to his parents and the way they worked side by side at the orphanage.

“Seeing their selflessness and service to the poor really moved my heart to wonder about the bigger questions in life, like what does God want me to do for him with my life?” he said.

Answering the call

He wrestled with what vocation to follow throughout his college years, and eventually the call to priesthood won out. And, when he revealed to his parents that he was setting aside medical school applications and completing one for the St. Paul Seminary, they had a one-word response: “Finally.”

As he looks back, he sees that the seed of a priestly vocation had been planted early in his life, and had been growing steadily — though quietly — inside his heart and soul.

“It all started back in kindergarten when we were asked on video what we wanted to become when we grew up; I said I want to be a priest,” he recalled. “My mother is a wonderful Italian cook, so we would often have priests over for pasta, and she would suggest, without subtlety, how it would be such a grace if one of her boys would become a priest. I pretended I was disinterested, but I knew deep down that the seed of priesthood was sown.”

It showed itself during high school while he was playing football, hockey and lacrosse at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights. In the midst of many practices and games throughout the school years, he often ducked away and went to the chapel to pray. He also attended Mass regularly over the lunch hour.

The faith journey continued at Notre Dame, when he spent the summer after his freshman year serving with the Missionaries of Charity in India at their home for the dying. That experience put his desire for medical school in doubt.

“I began to feel more peace and joy with the call to serve Jesus as a priest rather than a doctor,” he said. “I continued with the pre-med track, but I would find that Jesus desired not only physical, but also spiritual, healing of souls — a type of healing only a priest can give.”

Priestly influence

Also during that time, he met a vibrant priest, Father Rick Frechette, who served in Haiti and has helped with the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti. Father Frechette happens to be both a priest and a doctor, but said that his first calling was to be a priest. In fact, he did not go to medical school until 20 years after being ordained.

Though Father Frechette’s dual role as priest and doctor got Father Daly thinking about that possibility, he realized that he had been feeling a persistent restlessness about becoming a doctor and serving in the medical field. Ultimately, he made a move that changed his internal disposition.

“Once I started applying to the seminary, that’s when the peace just flooded, and I was so happy and free and joyful,” he said.

He started in pre-theology at the St. Paul Seminary in fall 2011 and hasn’t looked back. He is excited about beginning his priestly ministry, which he hopes will include mission trips.

“I’ll definitely be taking parishioners down to the orphanage [in Honduras] and hopefully be a bridge for encountering Jesus in the poor,” he said.

He also is leaving the door open to the possibility of following in Father Frechette’s footsteps and becoming a doctor someday.

But, for now, he is focused on the beginning of his ministry as a priest, in which he also hopes to connect with high school athletes. He helped start the Sports Captains Leadership Summit two summers ago for captains of local Catholic high school teams, and he also served as a chaplain for the Hastings High School hockey team during the past season. He sees his days as a high school athlete as a way to reach kids who are playing sports at parishes he will serve.

“You need the credibility for the kids to follow you,” he said. “You need men who have been where they’re at, who understand where they’re coming from, but who are transformed.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda appointed Father Daly parochial vicar of the Parish of Saints Joachim and Anne of Shakopee.

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Category: Ordinations