PROVIDENCE — When Father Christopher M. Mahar becomes rector of the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence on July 1, he’ll be returning to the place where he began his journey to the priesthood.
During a brief stay in Rhode Island this week, he joined seminarians on Tuesday for evening prayer and dinner with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
“I am very much looking forward to my new assignment,” Father Mahar said, adding that his primary role as rector is “to continue the great work that has taken place” in collaboration with the seminary staff, priest-faculty and Office of Vocations. He praised his immediate predecessor, Father Albert Kenney, for his dedication and commitment to the seminarians.
In his letter of appointment, Bishop Tobin wrote, “As you know so well, because it deals directly with the formation of future priests, the rector of the seminary is a very important office in the Church and carries with it very serious responsibilities.”
Bishop Tobin added that Father Mahar’s seven years of dedicated priestly ministry, as well as his recent experience in seminary formation at the American University of Louvain in Belgium, have prepared him well for his new diocesan ministry.
“I encourage you to work very closely with other members of the seminary faculty who share your dedication and enthusiasm for this work,” Bishop Tobin continued.
According to the Program of Priestly Formation, the rector serves as the pastor of the seminary community. The rector sets the direction and tone of the seminary program.
Father Mahar said that he doesn’t plan to implement any changes in the seminary, but hopes to pass on the zeal and joy for the priesthood that he witnessed from Bishop Robert McManus, Father Marcel Taillon and Father Kenney, who served in leadership positions at the seminary when Father Mahar was a student.
“Hopefully I’ll be teaching by my life and example,” he continued. Father Mahar likened his new role to that of a shepherd – serving as father, pastor and guide to the members of his flock in priestly formation.
“It’s great opportunity to help men to answer the Lord’s call and to share the joy that I have experienced as a priest,” he added, noting that he plans to share his love for the Catholic priesthood and belief in its value to the church as he prepares the seminarians for a life of ministry to the people of God.
Father Mahar said he will seek to increase vocations to the diocesan priesthood by beginning with prayer.
“Whenever we begin there, God always responds,” he continued. “I know he’ll do great things.”
The new rector emphasized that he’s filled with joy and excitement as he prepares to begin his new role.
“I am grateful to God for the patronage, protection and prayers of Our Lady of Providence,” he said, adding that the Blessed Mother has been patroness of his last four assignments.
As a seminarian, Father Mahar lived and studied at Our Lady of Providence, while completing undergraduate studies at Providence College. After receiving a baccalaureate degree in 2000, he was assigned by Bishop Robert E. Mulvee to Rome and studied at the Gregorian University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology. He later pursued additional studies in moral theology at the Academia Alfonsiania before returning to Rhode Island.
After being ordained to the priesthood in 2004, Father Mahar served for three years as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church, East Greenwich, and for one year at St. Mary Church, Cranston, before being assigned by Bishop Tobin in 2008 to the American College of Louvain, where he has served as vice-rector and completed additional graduate studies for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology.
Father Mahar is currently pursuing doctoral studies concentrating in theological ethics at the Catholic University of Louvain. In addition to carrying out the responsibilities of his new diocesan assignment, Father Mahar will continue to conduct research in preparation to write his dissertation entitled “Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in Patients Diagnosed as Being in a Persistent Vegetative State.”
He will present some of his findings next month at an international ethics conference in Munich, Germany.