Now nearly a month into his assignment as parochial vicar at St. Mary Mokena, newly-ordained priest Father Sam Conforti sat down to discuss his personal background, thoughts about his new role, and goals for the future.
Tell Us About Yourself
“I am a cradle Catholic and was raised by good and hardworking parents. All four of my grandparents were immigrants and instilled into my parents the work ethic of that great generation. My parents did the same for me. Their influences on me also included imparting and sharing their Catholic faith…I grew up in the 60’s and had dozens of friends and played most sports, either organized or pick-up games. I loved school and this feeling stayed with me from grammar school, through high school, college, law school, and graduate business school.
“My faith has always been a part of my life. As a young man I had never considered the priesthood as my vocation and naturally assumed I would marry and raise a family. A defining moment in my life was the day I returned home from a 3-day Cursillo retreat. On that fourth day, I felt the presence of The Holy Spirit and was filled with much joy. After approximately two years of discernment and questioning if I was worthy of such a vocation, I contacted the Joliet Diocese Vocation Office and eventually surrendered my Will over to God.”
What Are Your Main Goals at St. Mary?
“First, I want to gain all the knowledge I can about what is expected from being a parish priest. I would like to get a feel for the dynamic of my role. Once I understand this, I’ll develop a certain comfort level.
“More generally, I want to stay close to God and never put Him to the side. Many times, we think ‘I can do this’ and push God aside. But that is the definition of pride. I need to remind myself that I’m not in the driver’s seat. I’m only a passenger, and God is driving.”
Are there any projects you want to undertake?
“One of my favorite devotions is Adoration. It’s addictive, and I want to participate in that here. I also love the Rosary and am excited to get involved in that.”
What are some of the biggest challenges facing ordinary Catholics today, and how will you help parishioners overcome them?
“There’s a false expectation among many Catholics that they should be entertained at Church, otherwise they get bored. But that’s not the Catholic faith. The Catholic faith is very difficult, and it’s hard to get that idea across to a 21st century parishioner.
“The percentage of Catholics attending Mass is now below 40%. I’m sad to say that many people only come to realize the importance of God and their faith late in life. Unfortunately, many people were poorly catechized during the generation after mine. That’s why we have to make sure the generation growing up now understands the importance of God and the Sacraments. They can’t just dip their toes in the water and leave. The Catholic faith should be number one on our lists, and I’ll try to gear my homilies toward that.”
Are you more traditional or modern?
“I’m not a radical traditionalist, but I’m not a modernist either. Overall, I lean more towards the traditionalist side, however. We’re not here to entertain people. We’re here to read and understand the word of God and what He wants.”
How might your experience in the legal, business, and educational realms support your new role as a priest?
“I think my background can be very important and relevant. A parish is a nonprofit business, meaning it takes in revenue and has expenses. It has a budget. We have bills to pay, and we have to watch what we spend.
“I’ve run my own business where I could hire and fire people, had vendors, and had to maintain inventory. Furthermore, I have a public accounting degree and an MBA in finance. Using this experience, I hope to be a help to Father Dindo and our business manager.”
Do you think becoming a priest later in life gives you any advantages or special challenges?
“I think it gives me much more maturity and experience. Period. This is a people-focused role. You have to have interpersonal skills. You have to be able to know how to listen! You then have to know how to respond and how not to respond, and that comes with experience. You also need public speaking skills. Being able to stand in front of a group of people, present a topic, and think on your feet is important.
“As far as challenges go, you slow down as you age. I get up at 4:00 in the morning because I need a head start. I don’t stay up until midnight or beyond or I wouldn’t be able to function at Mass in the morning. My age gives me knowledge of my limitations.”
What is your favorite passage or story in the Bible and why? How does it inform your ministry?
“My favorite Passage is Galatians 2:19-20:
‘…I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; andthe life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.’
“This verse shouts at me to be a follower of Christ. This has been my credo all through seminary life. On Holy Thursday, when Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles, Peter didn’t want Him to do it, but He did. You need to be a servant to all.”
What is the best part about St. Mary so far?
“The people here are so nice and complimentary. I had been to St. Mary Mokena before as the deacon at Deacon John Abulag’s ordination Mass. This is a warm and welcoming place. I’m also very impressed with the devotions and attendance.”
Do you like Father Dindo’s dogs?
“I am a ‘Dog-Person’ … I love the dogs. I played fetch with Scarlet the other day. I held Beaux in my arms and have played with Paris. I am fine with them.”