The vocation story of Father Anthony Stewart, the associate pastor at Holy Family Church in Brentwood, has been spread around the world, thanks to the Knights of Columbus’ Columbia magazine.
On the back cover of every issue, the magazine highlights the vocation story of a priest, seminarian or religious. For the April 2021 issue, the spotlight was on Father Stewart, who serves as chaplain of Knights of Columbus Council 15234 at Holy Family.
In October 2019, Father Stewart got an email from Columbia editors asking if they could tell his story in their vocations feature. “I don’t even know how they knew about me,” Father Stewart said.
Cecilia Hadley, senior editor of Columbia, saw an interview Father Stewart had done with his alma mater, Aquinas College in Nashville, about his vocation. “It was a moving story,” she said.
“We’re always trying to feature priests from across the country, from different dioceses with different stories,” Hadley said. So the magazine reached out to Father Stewart, who was more than happy to participate.
“I certainly think it’s very important to share my vocation story, especially because I don’t think my vocation story is a conventional vocation story,” Father Stewart said. “The story about how my vocation occurred through unfortunate events like the death of my father and my parents’ divorce, that really resonates with people.”
Father Stewart grew up in McEwen, Tennessee, and converted to Catholicism after a priest at St. Patrick Church helped him through those difficult moments during his teen years. The conversion led to a call to the priesthood.
Father Stewart wrote his vocation story for the magazine, and editors sent a photographer to Holy Family to take a portrait of him.
The magazine’s readership consists mainly of the more than 2 million Knights of Columbus households worldwide.
Since the April issue of the magazine was published, “I’ve heard from people all over the country … thanking me for my vocation,” Father Stewart said. “One guy called in tears, saying the story gave him hope for the future of the Church.”
He also heard from priest friends who were seminarians with him. “You’re famous,” they told him.
One of the missions of the Knights of Columbus is to stand in solidarity with priests and religious, serving as “the strong right arm of the Church.”
The Knights sponsor the RSVP program for councils to provide moral, financial and spiritual support to future priests and religious at all stages of their formation. As a seminarian, Father Stewart received support from a local council.
The following is Father Stewart’s vocation story as published in Columbia Magazine:
“I wake up every morning thanking God”
When I was 15, my father died suddenly; it was a low point in my life, but also a turning point. My mom, who had converted to Catholicism several years earlier, encouraged me to speak to our parish priest. That encouragement would forever change my life.
I quickly saw a transformation within myself and began to think, “If God is helping me through this Catholic priest, there must be something to this Catholic Church.” This led me to begin RCIA classes, and I fell completely in love with the truths of the faith and with the Eucharist.
After my confirmation, the Lord said to me in prayer, “Anthony, you see what I’ve done for you through the priesthood; now go and do likewise.” I felt deep in my bones that God had brought me through those tough moments to teach me how to be a compassionate priest.
I was ordained in June 2018, and I wake up every morning thanking God for allowing me to be his servant. I hope I can be an instrument of grace to many people, as that parish priest was to me.”