Episcopal priest finds his way home
Alabama chaplain Father Bry Shields talks about his conversion and his family . . .
Fr. Bry Shields
Father Bry Shields, a priest of the Mobile archdiocese, serves as president of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School and pastor of St. Pius X Church. Father Shields, 59, has spent most of his adult life in ministry as an Episcopal priest. Like Blessed John Henry Newman, Fr. Shields became convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church by studying what the earliest Christians believed — beliefs continuously taught by the Church. He is married to Dr. Ruth Lyons Shields, and they have five grown children.
Tell us about your call to the priesthood.
First, I had a call to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, which I grew up in. I felt called to serve the Lord and his people. At Yale Divinity School I forged a very strong background in liturgy and familiarity with the Church Fathers.
I also was inclined toward the Eucharist as the central act of worship, and was committed to promoting the unity of the Church. All of these factors contributed toward my second calling.
As I matured in my Christian convictions and studied more Catholic doctrine and teaching, I became convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith as founded by Christ.
I also felt like continuing to serve in priestly ministry. I was aware of the pastoral provision initiated by John Paul II, which allows for the ordination of married Episcopal priests. I offered my services as a priest to Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb for the Archdiocese of Mobile, and he ordained me in December 1984.
How were you introduced to Legatus?
I learned about Legatus shortly after our chapter was founded, and became associated with it because my wife became a member. She’s a doctor and had her own medical practice. But I couldn’t join as a CEO member because I’m a priest — an unusual husband/wife situation!
About three years ago, Archbishop Lipscomb appointed me chaplain after the priest who’d been fulfilling the role was assigned new duties.
Why did you accept the appointment?
Because Legatus fosters close relationships among Catholics who are business and community leaders, and it’s mutually inspiring to help them live their faith. I also was attracted to the structure of Legatus and its spirituality: a laidback structure which has no committees (I love no committees!), but affords fellowship via celebration of the sacraments, saying the rosary, and having an excellent meal with friends. I also appreciate the outstanding speakers we host.
Any recent standouts?
Yes. Jason Jones — now a Legatus member himself — recently related his conversion to the Catholic faith through his ministry in the pro-life movement. After his talk, Jason offered to speak at my high school the next morning. He was tremendous. This wasn’t the first time one of our speakers spoke to my students. It’s a wonderful coordination between my work as an educator and as a chaplain.
How would you like to see the chapter progress?
First, I’d like to see the chapter grow. Two years ago at the Summit, we received an award for being one of the fastest growing chapters. We’re up to 39 couples now, but we need to invite more people in by preaching the benefits of membership. The genius of Legatus is that it’s not just another ministry for laymen to undertake apostolic work, but an organization for people to come aside and rest awhile as Jesus did with his disciples. Through that coming aside and resting, however, I also hope our members become more inspired to dedicate themselves to building up the local Church and becoming involved in the reform and renewal of our culture.