Fr. Rick Wallace, FSSP, fell in love with Latin Mass at St. Catherine of Siena

Fr. Rick Wallace gives the homily during his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Catherine of Siena June 2. He grew up at the south Phoenix parish and credited the Latin Mass for keeping him devout in his teen years. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Hearing her teenaged son say he was considering the priesthood wasn’t a big shock.

Shirley Wallace had long prayed that one of her four children would consider a vowed vocation. Her second pregnancy, in particular, set things in motion. That’s when she read a Catholic book stating that if a couple remained abstinent post-conception, the child would become a priest.

Wallace and her late husband agreed to try. Now, Wallace can also call her second son, “Father.”

“When you practice your faith and take your children to daily Mass with you, you hope that one of them will consider being a priest or nun,” Wallace told The Catholic Sun shortly after her son’s Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Catherine of Siena June 2.

Fr. Rick Wallace was among 10 priests ordained for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter May 26 in Denton, Nebraska, and one of two from the Diocese of Phoenix.

“It was very emotional. It was more emotional than attending the wedding of your child. It brought tears of joy,” Wallace said of ordination.

Even though she attended a wave of her son’s Masses of Thanksgiving in Nebraska, at St. Catherine and at Mater Misericordiae — followed by a Corpus Christi procession — Wallace said, “It still seems a little unreal seeing him up there instead of someone else.”

She quickly adapted to sharing her son with the world, however. Wallace received a priest’s traditional first blessing given to parents on ordination day. After his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Catherine, she humbly waited across the street at the reception site while Fr. Wallace offered a steady stream of first blessings. Phoenix Catholics filled the communion rail around the altar for the blessing.

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“I don’t really understand myself how God plants a seed and makes it grow,” Fr. Wallace said, but credits his vocation to a few things: being an altar server since age 7 or 8, including in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, or Mass in Latin, when it came to St. Catherine in 2007 — it made him more devout in his teen years — and taking his mother’s words to heart.

She told all four of her children: “If you pray to God and ask Him what His will is in your life, then He’s eventually going to answer you and whatever He tells you to do, you’re going to be happy doing it because God knows best.”

Vocation story retold

from ‘The Missive’

As he discerned, he embraced the fraternity’s traditional curriculum of extensive studies in Latin, St. Thomas Aquinas and Gregorian chant. He relished the pillar of formation aimed at human development too.

“It’s just as important to grow as a human in temperament, community life, correct social manners,” Fr. Wallace said. “In today’s world, you have the growth of young people that takes place in technology — on phones and computers. It withdraws them from the real world.”

Shirley Wallace described her priest son as “extremely level-headed” with gentleness, mildness and a sense of discipline that will serve him and his flock well.

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Fr. Wallace left June 28 for the Diocese of Parramatta in the northwest portion of Sydney, Australia, where he will begin his first assignment. The Land Down Under will be something new, but Fr. Wallace added more than a handful of stamps to his passport during seminary, so he is embracing the challenge.

“It takes you out of your comfort zone. It helps you cling to God more instead of clinging to things you’re familiar with,” Fr. Wallace said.

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