Fr. Dan Connealy: Vocation took root in college, headed to NAU

Fr. Dan Connealy removes his deacon’s stoll moments after his ordination June 11 to the priesthood as Vocations Director Fr. Paul Sullivan prepares to vest him with sacerdotal vestments. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

See the full story on the ordination:
Four ordained to the priesthood

Meet the other new priests

Fr. Dan Connealy’s first few months as a priest may have him feeling like life came full circle.

It was part way through his years at University of Pittsburg, while keeping campus life afloat, especially the swim team and his cradle Catholicism, when his priestly calling intensified.

He had fleeting thoughts about priesthood growing up. A read through St. John Vianney’s biography as a high school freshman revealed the saint found holiness by hearing confessions, celebrating Mass and visiting the sick.

One day during college, a grad student who was a member of Opus Dei approached him after Mass and asked if he was praying daily.

“It was good because I wanted to know how to pray more, but I didn’t know how to do that.”

Some prayers were formulaic like the Rosary Fr. Connealy, seven siblings — he’s in the middle — and their parents were occasionally able to offer together growing up. Others were through Adoration or simply saying, “Lord, this is what I’ve done today.” He realized prayer schedules are more important than traditional ones.

He began that summer in Phoenix by going to one weekday Mass. He finished it with daily Mass stops at St. Thomas the Apostle on the way home from swimming.

“Little by little the Lord puts things into place,” Fr. Connealy said a day before giving the toast to his seminary in Rome and 59 fellow members of the ordination class.

He described seminary as a chance to learn to love the person God created you to be because “that’s where you’re going to find holiness.” By August, the freshman priest will find himself among young adults at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff in search of the same thing. Fr. Connealy will be the associate director of the Holy Trinity Newman Center in addition to parish work at San Francisco de Asís.

Renee, his mother, sees a desire in her son to draw God’s people closer to Christ. Fr. Connealy does so from an important starting point, she said, by “reaching out and really connecting with people and meeting them where they are instead of bringing them to where he is.”

She is humbled at the miracle that her second eldest son can now change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. He is excited to be back in the local Church.

Several semesters at the Pontifical North American College in Rome — under two popes and with classmates from six continents — plus summer assignments in several Valley parishes and within a missionary community in Honduras showed him how big but also small the Church is.

Seminary also reminded him of the Catholic view of death. A Honduran child died midweek during his time there and the priest recalled watching 30 kids crowd around the open casket. He compared that to the U.S. view, often hidden in hospitals.

“Death is there. It’s not something to be feared, to be put away because we weren’t meant for this world,” Fr. Connealy said.