“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” 

Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo

While University Hospital was my professional home for over 25 years, I believed God’s plan for my life required continued growth, and greater earning capacity to take care of my family. That plan was made manifest in 2000 when I had the opportunity to take the human resources executive position at Piedmont healthcare in Atlanta. Taking the CHRO helm of one of Atlanta’s top legacy healthcare systems was a daunting task, yet God lifted me up for the job, helping grow Piedmont from two to five hospitals with over 8000 employees over a nine-year period.  

For a long time, I believed my unfulfilled vocation to the priesthood from my teen years was brought to fruition in the work I did as a human resources leader. During my career, which took me to five different health systems over 40 years, I had the opportunity to encourage so many employees who were struggling with work-related problems, often influenced by home challenges as well. I considered the thousands of employees I served as my flock, and it’s no wonder my closest work friends were the hardworking hospital chaplains, who ministered to the patients and to my employees as well. 

Over the 17 years I worked in the Atlanta area, I had the pleasure of attending Mass in various parishes as I moved around, including Christ the King in Atlanta, St. John Vianney in Lithia Springs, St. Frances de Sales Latin Rite in Mableton, and the Visitation Sisters monastery in Snellville.  It was a Bible Study experience at St. John Vianney that seemed to awaken a greater curiosity in the love of Christ, changing lives, including my own, and bringing a greater measure of peace and joy, which I heard in the witness of my friends in our weekly sessions.  I drew even closer to Jesus through worship at the traditional Latin Mass in Mableton, where I encountered Jesus through the Mass and the sacramental Eucharist, celebrated in the solemn and transcendent way which I recall, but didn’t understand as much in my youth.   

Another parish where I attended Mass was Holy Family in Marietta. I soon found there was a Lay Carmelite Community at Holy Family, which drew my interest.  Maybe it was the Carmelite saints who appealed to me at first, including St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.  The Carmelite charism of prayer and contemplation seemed right to me, as I had been relying on the spiritual fruits of my own contemplation to inspire so many written reflections over the past seven years. 

In 2015, I began attending Lay Carmelite community meetings, which led to three years of formation, culminating with taking my first professions in 2019.  The ceremony included me wearing the ceremonial Carmelite scapular and receiving a lighted candle to signify my commitment to my religious vocation.  

The candle took me back 30 years to the friend of my mother, who told me of mom’s dream of my holding a lighted candle, which was mysterious then, but now absolutely makes sense.  Not to get carried away with these matters, but God has a way of showing His infinite love to us in unique ways.  We were made from pure love, and God is always seeking us, knowing we can only find rest in returning to His word and will.  If we can just believe, being open to God’s love, He will do unbelievable, amazing things in our lives!

Have a Blessed Week!

Joe

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