The day after surgery for a recurring back injury from playing sports, Father Innocent Montgomery, C.F.R., awoke with no feeling from his waist down. Although he was scheduled to walk home that day, the first Friday of Lent seven years ago, his doctor cautioned he might not be able to walk again.
“It saved my vocation,” Father Montgomery said. Coming from a close-knit and success-driven family, he had some doubts before surgery. “I didn’t believe I had what it took to be a friar.”
Lying in the hospital bed, he was alone—“no habit, I’m out of the friary, no chapel, the brothers aren’t around, they call you by your baptismal name. The whole (religious) life was just stripped from me.”
“I can’t prove myself now. I’m paralyzed. I can’t be a ‘super friar.’
“The Lord brings me to this place of utter poverty, and it was there that, for the first time in my life, I experienced the Lord communicating to my heart that I was dearly loved by Him.
“I’m loved by Him and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best preacher or if you have the longest beard,” Father Montgomery said. “I could just be his son. The Lord said, ‘I don’t love you because you’re a friar. I love you because you’re my son.’”
He remained in the hospital for a month. And within eight months he learned to walk again, “like a baby,” he said. “Step by step, that’s an analogy for life.”
There were at least 10 diocesan priests, all in their 30s, who happily taught at his high school, St. Pius X, in Lincoln, Neb. “These guys would be on the sidelines at our football games.” After a retreat sophomore year, “I could see myself being like them.”
And he felt drawn to pray more. “There was this moment where I knew” it was something to pursue, which he did, at the nearby college seminary, St. Gregory the Great in Seward, Neb.
His second year there, he and his identical twin (Brother Angelus Montgomery, C.F.R.) came to New York to assist at a children’s summer camp run by the Missionaries of Charity at St. Rita’s in the Bronx. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were also there. “It was a really beautiful thing, because I had never met a religious in my life. They were so incredibly joyful and they just loved Jesus so much. Something stirred in my heart.”
He entered the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 2007 and made final vows in 2012.
He has served homeless men and those with addictions at St. Anthony Shelter for Renewal, the Bronx, since 2010.
Born a triplet in Wichita, Kan., Scott Montgomery grew up in Lincoln, Neb. The triplets—Katie, Scott and Russell (Brother Angelus), 31, have an older brother, Bob, 34. Their parents are Richard and Luanne Montgomery.
Father Montgomery will celebrate his First Mass Monday, May 30, at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Victory Church in Harrington Park, N.J. Father James Atkins, C.F.R., will deliver the homily.
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