Father Felix Desilets, C.F.R., has been a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal for 15 years, and while his vocation for religious life was clear, he was unsure if he was called to be a priest.
“Seeing the need for priests in Honduras, where there is one priest for every 40,000 Catholics, and seeing how much it meant to the people, and how much they needed it,” opened his heart to the possibility of the priesthood, he said.
Father Felix, 38, was born in Poughkeepsie to Brian and Kathleen Desilets and grew up with his two sisters in a typical Catholic family.
He joyfully recalled a story his father told him about his childhood. “I was asked what I would be when I grew up, and I said I wanted to be a priest or an astronaut,” he said.
For a time, the distractions of life blurred the idea of the priesthood. However, when he was a student at the University of Scranton, he had a profound conversion experience and returned to the practice of the faith.
He recalled one moment in particular, saying, “I was reading the parable of the rich young man who comes up to Jesus when he said, ‘If you truly want to be perfect, follow me, sell all you own and give it to the poor and come back to follow me.’”
“I pushed the Bible to the back of my desk, and closed the drawer!” he said with a laugh.
The idea that he could become a priest was unfathomable at first. “One thing that didn’t hold me back from religious life, but did hold me back from the priesthood was just the ability to accept that God could work through me to help other people,” he said.
“God’s grace,” he said, “gave me more and more confidence in time.”
Another obstacle he had to overcome was a fear of public speaking. “I was a horrible public speaker when in college, and being a priest, you are often the center of attention, sometimes spontaneously asked to get up and say things,” he said, adding that homilies also were a concern.
The fear hasn’t disappeared completely, “but it in no way holds me back or affects me now.
“When you respond to God’s call, he gives you the grace to do it,” he explained.
As a jack-of-all-trades, including carpentry and metal work, one would think St. Joseph would be a favored saint, especially when you add the fact that Father Felix’s confirmation name was Joseph.
But, his great devotion is to Our Lady. He remarked that he often prays the Rosary more than once a day. “She has been a great source of encouragement, strength, love, and consolation,” he said.
Through his love of Mary, his devotion to St. Joseph has also flourished. “It doesn’t so much have to do with my hobbies as much as my love for Our Lady and Christ, both of whom he was given to care for,” he said.
Caring for Christ and the Church is what a priest is called to do, he said, adding, “St. Joseph is the model of what a priest needs to be.”
Father Felix will celebrate his first Mass at St. Columba’s Church in Hopewell Junction on Sunday, June 16 at 2 p.m. Father Eugene Fulton, of Trinity Retreat, will be the homilist.