Fr. Bryce Sibley, 2019 Chaplain of the Year, also shepherds college students
LAFAYETTE-ACADIANA CHAPLAIN ADMITS CLOSEST FRIENDS ARE LEGATUS MEMBERS
Father Bryce Sibley says he was the poster child for what not to do in college.
“You should not drink and party all the time,” said Fr. Sibley, who grew his hair long and got an earring to match his rock-and-roll lifestyle as a young undergraduate in the early 1990s at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
That hard-living persona changed in his junior year, a transformation he attributes to Our Lady’s intercession. That set him on a new path that took him to seminary and ordination as a priest for the diocese of Lafayette, LA in 2000.
Today, Fr. Sibley, 47, serves as pastor and chaplain of Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the same campus where he once “goofed off” as a directionless young college student.
Father Sibley is also chaplain of Legatus’ Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter. He was recently named the 2019 Legatus Chaplain of the Year, and spoke with Legatus magazine.
How did you get acquainted with Legatus?
Father Miles Walsh, current chaplain of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter and my friend for 25 years, always told me what a great organization Legatus was. We tried for numerous years, to no avail, to get a chapter started in Lafayette until we got the right people involved and chartered in 2014.
What makes the Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter unique?
We’re from a close-knit community where family and friendship are very important. Everyone in our chapter is a committed Catholic. We have some really great business leaders, but we’re all friends. And as much as spiritual formation is important, our monthly meeting is a time for fellowship. My closest friends now are the people I’ve met and built relationships with in Legatus, and I think it’s the same for a lot of the other people there.
How has being a Legatus chaplain impacted your priesthood?
As a priest, nobody teaches you the business side of running a parish. It’s something you have to learn by yourself. The amount I’ve learned and gleaned from Legatus members has just been phenomenal. I call these guys all the time for advice. I would not be the priest and pastor I am today without the help of the Legatus chapter and my friends there.
When did you first believe you had a calling to the priesthood?
I had thought about it at a very young age. I grew up in a very devout Catholic family in the 1970s. We went to Catholic school when we were younger, and my Dad taught us catechism at home. But I went to college in the early 1990s, and like a lot of young men I partied and wasn’t very disciplined. I goofed off and wasted time. Then, at the beginning of my junior year, I had a deeper conversion through an encounter with Our Lady. I changed my lifestyle, and the idea of the priesthood came about. So at the end of that year I left the university and entered the seminary in 1994.
As a priest who ministers to college students, what is the key to successfully evangelizing young adults today?
The key is proximity and relationship. Establishing relationships, getting to know the students as persons, walking in accompaniment with them for spiritual direction is what really enacts the change.
We have a very active student center. The students are here morning, day, and night. I eat dinner with them. There’s a really strong bond of father-to-son-or-daughter, not just as pastor, and it’s because of that lived relationship. Over the years, I’ve officiated at students’ marriages and baptized their children. We’re all friends now.