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Meet the Chaplain: Fr. Daniel Firmin – Savannah Chapter

Early priestly calling and strong family support propelled vocation

Father Daniel Firmin, 40, chaplain of Legatus’ Savannah Chapter, has been an ordained priest for 14 years, and was instrumental in starting the chapter there. He is current pastor of St. James the Less Parish, also in Savannah, and serves as vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Diocese of Savannah.

When did you first consider the priesthood?

Fr. Daniel Firmin

Probably when I was between 10 and 12 years old. That was when the thought first occurred to me, and it didn’t leave, even though sometimes I wanted it to leave in high school and college. The Lord just kept calling, and just steadily led me in that way. And through prayer, friends, and their support, it was definitely what the Lord wanted me to do.

How old were you when you entered the seminary?

I was 22, just out of college. I began college with that pursuit in mind, and went to Franciscan University of Steubenville. They had a pre-theology program so I could get my philosophy done while I was doing my undergrad work and working toward my degree in humanities and Catholic culture. The whole idea was, if the Lord was not calling me to the priesthood, I’d need to launch into the next phase of my life, which I thought might be law school.

Did you grow up in a Catholic family?

I did, in a very strong Catholic family. My parents were wonderfully devout, and real examples of faith and trust in the Lord, and service and love. The two of them are saints in my book. Their faith, their love of Christ, and love of the Church was palpable in our family. I was very fortunate to have their example to guide me.

How did you come to be acquainted with Legatus?

It began when I was at Steubenville. I might have read some things about Tom Monaghan. Then, when I was at the North American College in Rome for seminary, I got to know more about Legatus while being in that Catholic milieu, which was a wonderful gift, and it exposed me to Legatus and members of Legatus in different ways.

How long have you been the chaplain of Legatus’ Savannah Chapter?

Since it launched in 2012. I was approached by two members of Legatus to help begin a chapter here in Savannah. So I did, under Bishop [Gregory John] Hartmayer.

What has your experience been like as a Legatus chaplain?

It’s been wonderful. I’ve just been so edified by the faith of the members and just how they live their life, their family lives, and seeing their love for the Lord and their love for the Church grow. That has all been a blessing for me. Legatus is one place where their faith really grows and it stretches them.

What value do you see Legatus having for its members and for the Church?

Anything that helps strengthen the faith of the people of God, and helps them grow in relationship with Jesus and in relationship with the Church, I’m all for it and I will support it. I think Legatus does that in a very good way. Legatus creates a wonderful atmosphere where people can delve deeper in their faith. They can grow and be strengthened in their love for Jesus and their love for the Church. It provides an environment, a methodology, a program, a way of life for people to support one another in their faith. Having that connection and community is very much needed in today’s world.

Who are your spiritual role models?

John Paul II, for sure. My mother and father, definitely. Various saints. St. Francis is a good patron. Mother Teresa, as well.

Do you have any hobbies you enjoy in your free time?

I enjoy throwing darts, walking, and hiking in the woods, and reading of course. I love watching soccer and football. I also like to play golf.

Pope Francis: The challenging pontiff

In the early Church, people lined the streets so that St. Peter’s shadow would fall on them and heal them (Acts 5:15). Not much has changed in 2000 years!

Fr. Daniel Firmin

Fr. Daniel Firmin

Our Holy Father Pope Francis comes to our shores and his shadow — like that of his predecessor, Peter — falls upon us, healing us with his presence and challenging us with his preaching.

It seems Pope Francis leaves no conscience untouched! From left to right, from Wall Street to Main Street, he is rattling cages and we are made uncomfortable, our lives are disturbed. When this happens in us, it’s perhaps because he is speaking the truth. And in speaking the truth, he is causing us to stretch and grow in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He is challenging us to be renewed spiritually in our thinking and in our actions — to evaluate anew what we have done and what we have failed to do. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are confused, unsettled and provoked by his words and actions: He stretches each one of us. No “side” can claim him fully except the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the truth of our Catholic faith!

Every papal visit is an extraordinary event, and Pope Francis’ visit was no exception. For five full days, Peter was among us and people from all corners of the country, from all walks of life, and from all religious backgrounds were interested in our Holy Father and in our Catholic faith. We saw politicians moved to tears. We saw the poor and the sick being embraced and loved. We saw a saint being canonized. We saw history being made. (Click here for full coverage of the visit.)

Never before has a pope addressed a joint session of Congress. In that speech, Pope Francis challenged every U.S. citizen to remember the ideals upon which we were founded. He referenced Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to remind us of the beauties of liberty and freedom on the different planes of religion, politics, as a people, and as individual human beings. He challenged us to live and to uphold our God-given liberty and freedom.

He referenced Catholic Worker cofounder Dorothy Day, laying before us the challenge to care for our brothers and sisters in accord with their dignity. He referenced Cistercian monk Thomas Merton, who argued for peace and brought deep interior prayer to the consciousness of millions through his writing. Through Merton,

Pope Francis challenged us to peace and to openness to God. During his remarks, he also issued a challenge to all engaged in business to continue in their noble vocation. He challenged them to contribute to the common good and to improve the lives of their employees and of those who are impacted by their businesses.

At the Catholic University of America, Pope Francis declared Junípero Serra a saint. Serra’s evangelical zeal for spreading the gospel and his missionary spirit was held up for us to emulate in our daily lives. Serra was a man of great faith and love. This love of God impelled him to move out of the comfort zone of his classroom in Spain and to enter the mission field of the New World.

We are called to follow his example by bringing the good news of salvation to all we meet, whether to strangers in far off lands or to our next-door neighbor, our employees, our spouses and children. This is the challenge of evangelization for every Catholic.

This visit revolved around Pope Francis’ participation in the 8th World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He called for the strengthening of marriage and the defense of the family, which have been and are under attack in our own country and around the world. By his presence and in his words, he emphasized the richness and beauty of family life while understanding how difficult and messy it can be. He encouraged and challenged all of us to work tirelessly to strengthen and support marriage and family by living according to the truth of the Gospel and in charity — charity in every situation and with every person around us, from our immediate family to our entire human family.

While Pope Francis walked among us and his shadow fell upon each of us, he gave us an example of true fatherhood — he loved us, he led us, and he challenged us to live as the children of God. Through his example and his words, this healing and challenging pope’s shadow found its way down to Savannah, Ga., and touched the soul of this priest and continued, I pray, the renewal of his mind and thinking — and his growth in charity and in the truth of the Gospel.

FR. DANIEL FIRMIN is the vicar general of the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., and the chaplain of Legatus’ Savannah Chapter.

Georgia chaplain credits parents for vocation

Savannah’s Fr. Daniel Firmin felt a call to the priesthood as a teenager . . .

Dr. Daniel Firmin

Dr. Daniel Firmin

Fr. Daniel Firmin
Savannah Chapter

Father Daniel Firmin, 35, carries a big load: diocesan chancellor and vicar general — and chaplain to three Catholic groups, including Legatus. However, the burden is light: “I keep St. Teresa of Avila’s advice close to my heart: ‘Let nothing disturb you, knowing God is in control.’” He credits his parents for encouraging his vocation. Before marrying and pursuing a call to serve the poor, both had discerned a religious vocation. Their willingness to let God lead gave the second of their seven children the courage to answer his own call.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

I thought the Lord was calling me beginning in my teenage years. I didn’t want that at all, but the thought just wouldn’t leave. So after my first year of college, I thought I’d check it out. I was accepted as a seminarian and sent to the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s pre-theology program. After that my bishop sent me to the Pontifical North American College. I said, “OK, Lord, I’m heading to Rome, so unless it’s really clear you don’t want me to go, I’m going.” I went, was ordained a deacon in St. Peter’s Basilica, and was ordained a priest back home in 2004.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

I’d known about Legatus, but actually met some members after I was assigned to Savannah a few years ago. First I met Marty Hogan on St. Patrick’s Day, and later John Roth, a parishioner at the cathedral. He attends the Latin Mass I celebrate there. They told me about Legatus and their wanting to start a chapter. I said I’d be happy to assist. I facilitated a meeting between them and Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, who gave them his blessing. I’ve helped and served as chaplain since we had our kick-off meeting in December 2012.

What impact has Legatus had on the Savannah diocese?

Our chapter is still in formation, but Legatus has already had an impact insofar as it’s affecting members in a beautiful way through an increased love for the faith and a desire to learn more. Beyond that, some of our guest speakers have also addressed the local Catholic high schools — speakers like Andreas Widmer, the former Swiss Guard, and Barrie Schwortz, an expert on the Shroud of Turin.

How would you like to see the chapter progress?

After we charter and get critical mass, I’m hoping Legatus will really take off and significantly impact the Diocese of Savannah. Of course I’d like to see us grow in numbers, but more importantly, continue to see the faith impacting members’ lives.

How do you approach your role as chaplain?

I help a lot with recruiting, but most importantly I’m a resource for prayer — like being asked to pray for members’ loved ones going through a difficult time.

I answer a lot of questions about the faith and what’s going on in the Church. I also challenge members, holding before them the importance of faith in their lives, their families and businesses.

Can you recommend any particular devotion?

I use the Magnificat a lot — the meditations, the daily Scripture readings. And the daily rosary is key. Most important is quiet prayer time with the Lord. The necessity of it is something that we really can’t skip. The Magnificat and the rosary help with that.

Take St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer: “Let nothing disturb you, knowing that God is in control. Do not allow the Evil One to disturb your peace.” Keep that peace and that level attitude of “I’m not going to let this disturb me. It will pass. The job will be done.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.