Seven years after entering the Catholic Church, Father Doug Owens’s journey toward ordination was sealed with the single word present, as he responded to vocations director Father Michael Cummins’s invitation, “Let Douglas, who is to be ordained a priest, come forward.”
“That was easy enough, wasn’t it?” said Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee before ordaining Father Owens during a May 28 Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. “All those years you were in seminary all came down to that [word].”
“A lifetime has brought him to the moment when he said present. He presents himself to the Church, and after formation and spiritual growth and academic achievement, he stands before the people of God. He stands before Jesus and before the Father, praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to enlighten him and to be with him.”
Father Owens, 45, a native of London, Ky., is the 39th man ordained for the Diocese of Knoxville and the fourth ordained by Bishop Stika. He was raised a Southern Baptist and later became a Presbyterian before entering the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil in 2004.
Before entering Conception Seminary in fall 2005, he worked in hotel management and the restaurant business and later held sales and marketing positions for companies such as Schlage, Shaw Industries, and Edge Flooring.
The new priest completed his theology studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia. In 2010 Bishop Stika ordained him to the diaconate at his home parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga.
In his remarks before the rite of ordination, Bishop Stika told the ordinand he would be posing several questions, “about service to the Church, about humility in your life, about an ongoing spirituality centered on the Eucharist and on the sacraments,” he said.
“It’s all a part of that moment when you said present. For you present yourself to the Lord, and with an open heart, you made the commitment and will continually make the commitment to be transformed into another Christ.”
God chooses each Christian to help build his kingdom, the bishop said, whether as a deacon, a priest, a consecrated person, or a single person.
Bishop Stika prayed that throughout the years of Father Owens’s priesthood, “it might never become ordinary to hold that bread in your hands and say ‘Take this, all of you, and eat it.’”
Speaking of the Apostles—who were not yet saints when Jesus chose them—the bishop said, “Just as the Apostles were all kinds of characters, who had all kinds of gifts and challenges, we priests too have all kinds of characters but also all kinds of gifts.”
Joining Father Owens for the ordination Mass were his mother, Nadene Owens; sister Patti Armstrong; and her children, Bradley, 15, Emily, 9, and Brett, 6.
Also present were two of his former fraternity brothers, now both priests—Father Michael Clark of St. Anthony Parish in Browns Valley, Ky., and Father Andrew Garner of St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green, Ky.
Like her brother, Mrs. Armstrong, a member of St. Peter Chanel Parish in Marietta, Ga., is also a convert. In an interview after the ordination Mass, she said that when Father Owens first told her about his desire to become a priest, “I thought he was crazy.”
“I had to apologize to him after that, but at first I really didn’t understand why he was doing what he was doing.”
As time went by, she said, she could see how God was working through him.
“He never talked to me about converting, but it just fell into place, and it was the best decision I ever made,” she said.
Father Owens’s mother said that her son was “really excited and happy, and he’s ready to hit the ground running.”
Mrs. Armstrong said that although her mother wasn’t planning to convert to Catholicism, “she has embraced it and couldn’t be more proud” of Father Owens.
The new priest celebrated his Mass of thanksgiving at OLPH the day after his ordination. The experience was “very moving and humbling,” he said.
“And it was fantastic to have three of my classmates from St. Charles Borromeo—two as my deacons and one as a priest.”
Printed with permission from the East Tennessee Catholic, newspaper from the Dioceses of Knoxville, Tennessee.