Making a Priest in the ‘Fifties: Memoir of a Nervous Seminarian
by James M. O’Brien, PhD
Reviewed by William E. Cooper for Reader Views (11/06)
Although a unique subject, this really is a great book to read. As a life-long Catholic, and one who actually aspired to the priesthood in my youth, I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to attend the seminary.
James O’Brien fully answers all the questions I had, and does it well. He writes clearly and concisely, at the same time adding just the right amount of humor to make the book an enjoyable read. His honest assessment of the life is a refreshing overview, particularly in light of the scandals plaguing the church. I particularly like the descriptions of daily life, a mixture of hard work and typical young men adventures. I am happy to tell Mr. O’Brien well done on his book “Making a Priest in the ‘Fifties. ”
Being by heritage an Irish storyteller, O’Brien views the human experience as essentially funny, particularly when fallible human beings are trying to be solemn. His recollections of some of the eccentric faculty put a lighthearted spin on his trials of liturgy, Latin, and the rigid Rule – such as his depiction of Father Snuffy Nevins, the moral theology teacher, who believed that the Supreme Court, the Railroads, and the Communists had concocted a scheme to take over the country.
“Making a Priest in the ‘Fifties” has no axes to grind, but doesn't avoid issues both then and now, including some speculation about sex and celibacy, hierarchy, and clerical ambition. Despite his amusing take on seminary life, O’Brien approached his priestly preparation with deep seriousness, and his perspective is a refreshing representation of how one can be spiritual without taking human nature too seriously.
Jim O'Brien received a B. A.in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, and an M. A. and Ph. D. from Northwestern University. He has served as a parish priest, high-school religion teacher, editor of a diocesan newspaper, Diocesan Director, and chaplain. O’Brien retired as Professor Emeritus in Communication Arts from the College of New Rochelle in N. Y. , and moved to Madison, WI. His is busy at work on his second memoir, “Confessions of a ‘Sixties Priest: (Not What You Think!), a follow up to “Making a Priest in the ‘Fifties: Memoir of a Nervous Seminarian” (ISBN 978-0595408535, iUniverse, 2006), which can be purchased at online bookstores.