From Father Steven - May 28, 2023
Dear Parishioners of Immaculate Conception,
My name is Gabriel Malachi Hanley, I am twenty-eight years old and in preparation for my presbyteral ordination next year, I have just been assigned deacon to Immaculate Conception here in Marlborough. Although I can say today that I am very happy with the vocation that the Lord is giving me, rest assured that it hasn't always been the case. I was born and raised in Framingham, MA to my father, Stephen Hanley, a Boston native, and my mother Ana Hanley, who came to the United States from Dominican Republic when she was seventeen. My family was always involved in the Church, and ever since I was young, my parents sought to instill in us the faith as the most important element of our lives. However, seeing how different my family was from those of my friends and relatives, I was embarrassed of my faith. And it did not stop there, being the fourth of six children, I felt that I was eclipsed by my siblings and that I didn't really have a place in the family. So, I set out to create an identity for myself.
I started getting into all sorts of different hobbies: basketball, skateboarding, guitar, singing, graffiti art and a number of other things. Each hobby became a way for me to be noticed and appreciated; it was by way of these hobbies that I sought the approval of my parents, friends and family. Nevertheless, however much I excelled at one of them, I was never satisfied. As much as I tried to make myself happy, I couldn't. And so, the cycle of dissatisfaction continued. All the while, I became more distant from the Church. Although I would be attending mass, I was starting to become doubtful if anything I did in the Church really had any meaning. But even while I was distancing myself from God, he did not abandon me.
When I was seventeen, during a retreat, I felt that there was an interior voice that, without words, was urging me to leave everything behind and to pursue a vocation to the priesthood. My first reaction, like Jonah, was to run in the opposite direction. I kept on with my dream of going to Art school, hoping to have a career in graphic design, and to one day have a wife and family of my own. After High School, I attended Montserrat College of Art for a semester, but still that interior calling wouldn't leave me alone. I wanted to take time off to discern what the Lord was asking of me. Soon after, the opportunity arose for me to have an experience in the Holy Land, serving at the Pilgrim's House called the Domus Galilee. There, for seven months, I lived something of a monastic life, revolving around work and prayer. I would make beds, wash windows, serve in the restaurant, clean toilets as well as many other tasks. On Sundays we would take a break from work and would visit one of the many different holy sites around. The miracle was that I was finally happy.
It became clear to me, that when I wanted to do my own will I was miserable and left feeling like I never measured up. But even with the simple tasks that I was doing while I was there in Israel, it was as if my life had so much more meaning. This led me to be open to the vocation to the priesthood and so I decided to enter the Seminary.
For the past eight years I have belonged to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Boston and I have never been happier. These last three years, as part of my formation, I spent doing mission work, first in Kansas and Missouri, and then in northern and central California. It was an incredible experience to be able to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ in all of these different places.
Nevertheless, throughout the years in the seminary, I believe one of the most important things that I have discovered is that God does not choose the qualified, but qualifies those that He chooses. That is to say that, God has not called me to this vocation, because I am better than others or more holy, but simply because he loves me and desires to reach many people through me. The vocation that God has given is hardly about myself, but is really about all those He seeks to draw to Himself through my ministry. And, yes, often times I feel that I fall short, but the with the help of God's grace, we are able to do even the impossible. This calling to the priesthood, and right now as a deacon, is really a gift to love in a distinct way. I look forward to serving here at Immaculate Conception and ask that you continually pray for me so that I may always cling to the Lord in the mission He has entrusted to me.
Yours in Christ,
Deacon Gabriel Malachi Hanley
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Father Steven Clemence