Joseph Bass follows his father’s footsteps and enters seminary

 

By Barbara Chenevert

The Catholic Commentator

Father Frank Bass looked on with pride, occasionally nodding in agreement, as his youngest son talked about his career plans.

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Father Frank Bass shares a laugh with his youngest son, Joseph, who entered St. Joseph Seminary in August. Although the two would be a rare father/son combo when Joseph is ordained, they said they don’t really feel different. Photo by Barbara Chenevert | The Catholic Commentator

 

Joseph Bass, son of Father Frank and Donna Bass, wants to be a Catholic priest, like his father. He entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in August.

Perhaps there will be a lot of talk, maybe even a few jokes, about taking up the family business or following in his father’s footsteps, but for Joseph Bass, 24, the idea of a priestly vocation is just a wonderful gift from God.

If Joseph is ordained after formation in the seminary, the Basses’ situation – father and son priests – would be rare, something they both downplay. “We are different, but we don’t feel different,” Joseph Bass said.

Father Bass echoed that sentiment. “I think of myself primarily as a dad who hopes and prays for what is best for my son. If God’s will is for him to be a priest, I pray he will be a good, holy priest. If not, I hope he will be a good, holy man.”

“The father-son connection is temporary. What he will be able to do for our Lord will last forever. That’s the important thing,” he said.

Father Bass was an Episcopal priest who converted, along with his wife and three children, to Catholicism and was eventually ordained in the Catholic Church. He is pastor of the clustered church parishes of St. Isidore in Baker and St. Pius X in Baton Rouge.

A vocation to the priesthood has been in the back of Joseph Bass’s mind since he was a sophomore in high school. But it was only two years ago that he “made the decision to really give the Lord a chance – to allow him to work in me.”

Joseph credited the two years he spent teaching and coaching at Catholic High of Pointe Coupée as an “intensive workshop on how to love and be loved” that gave him the freedom to respond to God’s call with confidence and without fear.

He said his father was also a major influence in his decision. “Dad’s role was not so much as priest but as a dad. When you grow up as a child of any pastor, you don’t differentiate between ‘Father’ and dad until you are much older. What I felt was prayer and support.

“Sometimes I would see him come home exhausted. I would look at him and think, ‘If this is what it’s like to serve the Lord, I don’t want it.’ ”

But other times, he said, he and his father would sit on the porch and discuss the possibility of his becoming a priest. “He would give good, practical advice but it always led back to Jesus – where your heart is, there lies your treasure,” he said quoting Scripture. “There was such a stillness about it.”

“I was not surprised when he finally came and said he wanted to test his vocation because we had talked so much about it,” Father Bass said. “More than anything I had spent time advising him that feelings of anxiety and fear were not an indication that God was at work. A vocation to the priesthood, if authentic, gives one a great feeling of freedom. A belief that you have a vocation is something you can embrace and say, ‘at last I know why I am here.’ ”

“He came to his decision during a time when he was settled and fulfilled in teaching and coaching. So I was very happy to see it was not a result of the anxiety of  ’what am I going to do when I grow up?’ ”

“Our family has learned we don’t approach something because we have a set idea in our minds of what God is going to do. We don’t know what God is doing unless we put ourselves out there and make ourselves available,” Father Bass said.

“If this is God’s will for Joseph, he will take his place in the presbyterate and the whole father-son thing will recede far, far into the background. People will see him as Father Joe and the help he can give them to experience God’s love for them,” he said. “I will be long gone as he is getting into his stride of ministry.”

Joseph Bass said he would get angry at times because some people didn’t understand the ordination of his father as a married Catholic priest. “I was angry for a while that something that was so clearly good and so necessary could be hated,” he said.

Although rare, there are other fathers and sons who share priesthood. In at least two situations, a father and son who had been Episcopal priests converted and were ordained together as Catholic priests – one in Texas last year and another in London.

Joseph Bass realizes his life will be different from his father, who has a wife and three children, and he has experienced the same struggles and acceptance as any seminarian would. But he has come to appreciate the wisdom of celibacy in the priesthood. Growing up, “We understood that dad was first the spouse of the church.”

The younger Bass said he wants to have a wife and family, but he has been able to consecrate that to God and is willing to be a father to all as a priest in the church.

“Really and truly I have never said, ‘Why can’t I be like him?’ Mom and dad taught us there is no room for entitlements in a vocation. I understand the priesthood is a tremendous gift.”

Joseph said he dated throughout high school and college and found that he learned so much about how to give and receive love. But at the end of the day, that deep hunger that everyone has can only be filled by Christ himself, he said.

“What I have experienced in the past two years has been a stillness and peace I have never experienced in my life,” he said.