Rev. Mr. Daniel E. Kirk

Rev. Mr. Daniel E. Kirk

Twelve years ago on a Sunday in the spring of 2000, people in parishes around the diocese were tuning into the Bishop’s Annual Appeal video and learning about the various ministries and programs that would benefit from the upcoming year’s fundraiser.

Little did anyone know the profound impact that the appeal video would have on a young high school freshman named Daniel E. Kirk of St. Casimir Parish, Riverside. While watching the video, Kirk was so impressed with how appeal funds helped to support seminarians, and to hear seminarians discuss their own personal vocation experiences, that it was then he believed the seed for his own vocation to the priesthood was planted.

“Being a high school kid, I didn’t have much money to donate to the appeal, so I started thinking of other ways that I could help serve the diocese. It was at that moment when the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, ‘priesthood’,” Rev. Mr. Kirk said. He noted that although, by his senior year, he had pondered career interests including politics or the sciences, especially astronomy, he was intent on becoming a priest.

Rev. Mr. Kirk, who was born Aug. 19, 1983, in Willingboro and graduated from the Delran Public School system, reflected on how those thoughts of priesthood from 12 years ago will become a lived reality when he is ordained a priest by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., on June 9.

“On one hand it means a sense of accomplishment in that I’ve attended seminary for eight years and now I’ll be able to see the fruit of that labor – that I’ll finally arrive at the place where that freshman in high school had once envisioned,” he said.

Being ordained also means that “I’ll become a minister to others; that I’ll be able to purely and radically bring God to others whether it is through the celebration of the Eucharist, proclaiming the Gospel or being with them” during the sacramental times in their lives.

“The priest represents God to the people and it will be a truly a wonderful and awesome thing to be part of.”

Rev. Mr. Kirk, who is the son of Roger J. and Christine Kirk and brother of 30-year-old, Timothy, regarded his path to priesthood as being a unique journey.

Unlike many other priests and seminarians who have had previous education and career experiences before joining the seminary, Rev. Mr. Kirk was fresh out of high school when he entered St. Andrew College Seminary on the campus of Seton Hall University, South Orange, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Catholic studies.

“I had the best of both worlds at St. Andrew’s,” said Rev. Mr. Kirk.  During the day, he attended regular college classes, but in the evening, he returned home and “lived with guys who were also discerning the priesthood.”

Rev. Mr. Kirk’s priestly formation was also unique in that he had been asked by Bishop John M. Smith to continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. At PNAC, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is working toward a licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas.

During his time in Rome, Rev. Mr. Kirk enjoyed “interacting with and serving people from all over the world.” Especially meaningful was working with two very diverse apostolates.

For the better part of the two years he ministered with the Community of San Egidio in helping to feed the poor. “Inviting the poor to come and sit at the table while volunteers served as waiters, made it feel more like a restaurant than a soup kitchen.”

“Taking orders and delivering food to the tables allowed me to see how difficult it is to be poor,” he added.

Rev. Mr. Kirk also ministered at the U.S. Naval Base in Italy where he learned a lot about the challenges of being deployed overseas and the impact deployment has on families.

“These enriching experiences help to focus my own prayer and study, drawing the focus away from myself and redirecting to those in need, whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually,” he said. “That is ultimately the point of this apostolic work: to foster an outward giving of ourselves to God and to the people of God.”

Rev. Mr. Kirk reflected on two priests he regarded as being inspirational role models – Bishop John M. Smith and Conventual Franciscan Father Dennis Mason, who was pastor of St. Casimir Parish for many years.

Father Mason, who will be Rev. Mr. Kirk’s vesting priest, “was a wonderful pastor,” Rev. Mr. Kirk said. “He is a good and holy man. You see the holiness in him – in the way he carries himself and in the concern he shows for others.”

After ordination, Rev. Mr. Kirk will serve for two months in Ascension Parish, Bradley Beach, before returning to Rome in September to continue his graduate studies in spiritual theology.

Rev. Mr. Kirk said he believes that a “good priest” must possess two qualities. He must be a man of prayer and he must be kind.

”If one is attentive to his own prayer life, he’ll lead others to prayer and if he is kind, people will seek him out to help them come to know God better.”