He calls himself the least likely of men to become a priest. Rev. Justin A. Freeman, O. de M., was ordained for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on Nov. 13, 2010. Here is his account of how he found his way to the priesthood.
Q. How did you become a priest?
God’s ways are loving, but often inexplicable. I am probably one of the least likely of men to become a Catholic priest.
I was born in a small Virginian town—Warrenton—in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. My family members were of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist group that was founded to “restore” the primitive Church. My family lived on a small farm in Catlett, a village of a couple hundred people. We lived on a gravel road. Our closet neighbor (my grandmother!) lived a half mile away. I occupied my time by fishing, reading, and playing with my sister and our pets, which were dogs, cats, and even a couple of ducks.
When I was in the ninth grade, my family moved to northern Virginia. The D.C. suburbs were quite a culture shock to a boy from Catlett. It was there that I discovered the Catholic faith through a friend.
Q. What was your family like?
I am the oldest of two brothers and one sister. My sister Jennifer, only twenty months younger than me, is a social worker in Washington State. My brother Clayton is 26 and is in diving school. Samuel, the youngest, just turned 18. He is a senior in high school. My dad is a retired firefighter. He now works as a fire inspector in Rockville, Maryland. My mother is a nurse.
Q. At what age did you become a Catholic?
I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at age 17 at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, VA. Like many “converts,” I felt at home in the Church.
After graduating from George Mason High School in Falls Church, I attended a small liberal arts college in south central Virginia. I majored in political science. In college, I worked for the Social Security Administration as a “student-clerk.” Living so close to D.C. gave me the opportunity to intern for Preston Gates, a major lobbying firm specializing in energy issues and insular affairs and for a major political party.
Q. What made you think about becoming a priest?
I started thinking of the priesthood even before I was formally received into the Church. The Rev. Daniel Mode, the priest who received me into the Church, even hinted once that I might one day become a priest.
Q. How did your family react to your becoming a Catholic, and wanting to become a priest?
Initially they were not very supportive. But now they are proud.
Q. What attracted you to the priesthood?
The example of many good and dedicated priests that I witnessed early on in my journey to the Faith. They were men who were completely dedicated to the Truth and to helping others.
I joined the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in 2003 at the age of 24. I professed vows in 2005 and was ordained a priest on Nov. 13, 2010. It has been a long, and at times difficult, journey to the altar. May He give me the grace to be a good and faithful Mercedarian priest.