Former FBI agent, now a priest celebrates Mass here

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    WARWICK-It's not often that an FBI Agent who is also an Army officer and trained paratrooper decides to become a priest. Newly ordained Catholic priest Father James Collins never mentioned that he would be the subject of a feature story on national TV. But he was and it was aired on that same evening, May 23, when he celebrated the 12:15 p.m. Sunday Mass at Warwick's Church of St. Stephen the First Martyr. Because of his unusual background, Father Collins had caught the eyes of the producers of Fox News Magazine. "He not only changed his job," said the show's host Laurie Dhue. "He changed his life." Although Father Collins has been assigned to a parish in Staten Island, NY, which he now refers to as "The pearl of the Atlantic," he has a special affinity for Warwick and St. Stephen's Parish. As a seminarian, he spent his past three summers at St. Stephen's, helping out, learning about the duties of a parish priest and developing many friendships among the parishioners. "I thank you for your friendship, your support and your kindness," he said. "You have helped in my formation towards priesthood." Father Collins told the congregation, which included his parents, Mary and James Collins, Jr. of Union, NJ, that his life has been on an emotional roller coaster since he was ordained by Cardinal Egan in St. Patrick's Cathedral on May 15. "I'm thinking in unbelief," he said. "I'm a priest." That spiritual journey with seven years of study for the priesthood seemed out of the question when Fr. Collins graduated from Jersey City State College. He became an Investigative Specialist for the FBI and enjoyed living in his own apartment and looking forward to a long career as well as marriage and children. He had even wandered from the practice of his faith until he took a friend's advice and went to confession. After that uplifting experience, he then began attending daily Mass while struggling with his vocational decision for a year. He soon realized, however, that he was drawn to the priesthood. "There was always something in the back of my head saying ‘There's something else. There's something missing in my life," he said. On the Fox News Magazine show, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. Peter Finn, explained that late vocations to the priesthood are not uncommon. "We even have a newly ordained priest who was a stockbroker and involved in the Irish Football League," he said. Father Pat Buckley, 40, a newly ordained priest and a former stockbroker, has been assigned to St. Stephen's in Warwick.