By Margaret Hunt
Father Doug Owens is the associate pastor at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut. He was ordained at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on May 28, 2011, by Bishop Richard F. Stika.
He is the older of two children born to Nadene Owens and the late Harse Owens in London, Ky. Prior to his ordination, Father Owens worked in hotel management and the restaurant business and later held sales and marketing positions for Schlage, Shaw Industries, and Edge Flooring.
Father Owens is a convert to Catholicism, having previously been a Baptist and then a Presbyterian before entering the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2004. He enjoys running in his spare time.
What has it been like being a priest since your ordination? Is it everything you thought it would be?
It’s everything and more. They prepare you for it in seminary and so there haven’t been too many surprises. I still feel like I’ve got my training wheels on, but as time goes on I get more and more comfortable with the basic things. As with anything new for the first year, at least with me, I’m always asking a lot of questions and eventually the questions become less and less.
What has surprised you about your life as a priest?
I spent 40 years living on my own, then I went into the seminary, and then it took a couple of years to get used to the seminary. When I got out I realized, wow, I really like structure! [In the seminary] it’s easy to find time to pray, to exercise, to segment your day, and it’s a double-edged sword once you get out. They tell you this in seminary that it’s going to be different. Your days will not always be the same. Things will happen that throw off the routine. Having to find another routine that works, that keeps me spiritually, physically, and mentally healthy has been a challenge. So I’m trying to figure out how to make time for things. That’s the biggest thing.
How have you managed this challenge?
It’s a lot of trial and error. What I used to do in the seminary was get up at four in the morning and go do my holy hour, then go run, then by seven o’clock I had taken care of it. If the day went crazy, I knew that I’d be fine. I tried to do that here and I can’t go to bed at 8:30 or 9 o’clock at night because there’s stuff going on. I’ve had to figure out how to try and prioritize prayer, work and exercise and I try to do them during the day because early mornings weren’t working out.
What would you say to a young person who thought they had a vocation to the priesthood?
Whenever I talk to anybody about it, I tell them nobody can tell them to do it because they want you to do it. I think a lot of people get into that. You’ve got to trust the Holy Spirit, and you’ve got to pray, and you’ve got to be open to it. When I started the process I was worried about selling my house, getting out of debt, my car, all those things that used to drive me crazy—earthly things. When I look at that now, how did all this stuff get sorted out? I remember asking Father Peter Iorio, who was the vocation director at the time, “Pete, what if I don’t sell my house, can you guys give me a bridge loan or something,” totally thinking of this like it was a job transfer by a large company. He said no, because it will all work out. I was thinking, man, you’ve got to quit saying that, but it did. I’ve been blessed. How the Holy Spirit has moved has made all the difference for me.
What is it like and what have you enjoyed most about being an associate pastor at your parish?
The best thing I was able to do was last year when Monsignor [Patrick] Garrity was called out of town for an emergency and wasn’t able to be there for first Holy Communion and I got to do that. It was amazing. If everybody could see the look on those kids’ faces as they got to receive the body and blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord for the first time; it was worth it all. As grownups and especially in our society and culture, we’re not used to having to delay gratification. If we want to do something, we generally can do it. These children have been seeing their moms and dads, classmates, and brothers and sisters going up and receiving Communion for a long time and they’ve never been able to do it. The fact that you get to walk through this with them and talk to them about it and see that they’re so excited to receive Jesus—that’s been pretty much the high point I think.
What are you looking forward to in your future as a priest?
I love Christ, I love the Church, and when people see that, then they can understand that you can be a Christian, that you can live a good life, that you can be a good Catholic, and be happy. So I just want to continue to learn and continue to do God’s work the best that I can and to be a docile instrument for his work to continue to establish the kingdom of heaven here on Earth.