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Cathedral rector’s priestly journey began with early conversion
The Catholic Sun ^ | July 3, 2009 | By Joyce Coronel

Posted on 07/02/2009 5:29:57 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler

Fr. Rob Clements was just 10 years old when he discovered the beauty of the Catholic faith. He had been riding his bike in Sacramento when he stumbled upon a large Catholic church.

Leaving his bike parked outside, he entered to find a priest in the midst of the concluding rites for a funeral.

“It was just spectacular,” Fr. Clements said. “I saw the casket with the black cover on it and the crosses. The priest incensed the body and I was just blown away with this.”

When he headed back outside the church, he discovered his bike was gone. By this time it was getting dark and a storm was approaching.

“I was easily two and a half miles from home and I was terrified,” Fr. Clements said. He found the rectory and rang the bell.

The priest who came to the door, an Irishman named Fr. Connie O’Connor, assured the boy his bike had merely been moved. Four years later, having learned more about the faith from the Irish priest, Rob Clements became a Catholic.

The future priest’s family eventually relocated to Tempe, where he attended Marcos de Niza High School and then Arizona State University. Fr. Clements graduated with a degree in finance and French and planned on a career in international business.

It was while working for a local bank that he reached a crucial juncture in his life. The bank had sent the young man out on repossession assignments before, but this time was different.

“I went out to repossess a microwave. This poor woman — her husband had left her with four little kids. Her little boy, who couldn’t have been more than 5, looked at me and he said, ‘You’re not going to take our stuff, are you?’ I couldn’t do it… I turned in my notice a week later,” Fr. Clements said.

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1990, Fr. Clements was assigned to St. Mary Parish in Chandler. He next served as the vocations director for the Phoenix Diocese for six years, then returned to St. Mary as pastor in 1999.

In 2005, Fr. Clements became the rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral where he has served ever since.

Looking back over his nearly 20-year ministry as a priest, he recalled some memorable moments.

He told the story of meeting an irate woman following packed Easter Sunday Masses at St. Mary a few years ago. The woman, who was not a Catholic, only went to Mass once a year — on Easter. She approached him following Mass, expressing her outrage at not having been able to find a seat in the church.

Fr. Clements, who was shaking hands with parishioners and taken aback at the woman’s indignant attitude, quipped that she ought to call ahead for reservations the next year.

Some time later, the woman fell ill. Her neighbors summoned Fr. Clements, who was somewhat puzzled at the request of a non-Catholic for a visit from a priest.

“I answered her questions and said, ‘How does that all sound?’ She said, ‘I’ll take it.’” He baptized and confirmed the new believer, giving her Holy Communion and the anointing of the sick. Three days later, the woman died.

Fr. Clements also remembered receiving a heartfelt letter from a woman who, for her own safety, had divorced her husband years ago. Though she never remarried outside the Church, she felt she had been excommunicated.

Fr. Clements was able to reassure her that she had not ever been outside the flock and should immediately seek the sacraments.

When did you first sense God calling you to the priesthood?

Around age 11, I said, “I like this, this seems like me and I see me doing that.” I wasn’t even Catholic yet. But it didn’t solidify until after college when I met Fr. Sigman, who was at St. Daniel’s as pastor at the time. He had patience with my immaturity in the faith.

Did someone invite you to consider the priesthood?

Yes, Fr. Sigman did. I remember I was helping him carry some boxes, and he said, “You know, I think you have a vocation to the priesthood and I’m praying that you recognize it.”

What can families do to encourage more vocations to the priesthood?

Pray as a family and encourage healthy activities like athletics, especially team sports with other strong Catholic guys; being friends with a priest, inviting your priest over for a family dinner. Get to know your parish priest. Speak positively of priests and religious — I think that’s critical.

TOPICS: Catholic
KEYWORDS: clements; phoenix; priest; rector
A positive story about a good priest.
1 posted on 07/02/2009 5:29:58 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler
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To: Jeff Chandler

When I first read the headline I read “Cathedral ReActor’s Priestly Journey Began w/Early Conversion” and I was thinking Light Water? Heavy Water? Holy Water?”

Never mind.

2 posted on 07/02/2009 5:35:50 PM PDT by Attention Surplus Disorder (What kind of organization answers the phone if you call a suicide hotline in Gaza City?)
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To: Attention Surplus Disorder

Fr. Clements would most likely roll his eyes at your humor, as he does with mine.

3 posted on 07/02/2009 5:37:53 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (The University of Notre Dame's motto: "Kill our unborn children? YES WE CAN!")
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To: Jeff Chandler

Good story...thanks.

4 posted on 07/02/2009 5:58:49 PM PDT by Ann Archy (Abortion....the Human Sacrifice to the god of Convenience.)
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To: Jeff Chandler

**The priest who came to the door, an Irishman named Fr. Connie O’Connor, assured the boy his bike had merely been moved. Four years later, having learned more about the faith from the Irish priest, Rob Clements became a Catholic.**

What a cute testimoney — moving his bike so it wouldn’t get stolen and then being the path to his conversion!

5 posted on 07/02/2009 6:16:34 PM PDT by Salvation (With God all things are possible.)
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