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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Christ’s Net
Fr. Paul Waddell shares his experience as a diocesan priest and Regnum Christi member in New York

Fr. Paul Waddell with friends
Fr. Paul Waddell (front right) with some of his friends in the Legion of Christ

The Legionary brothers and fathers that passed through Thornwood in recent years all know Fr. Paul Waddell. Every one that meets him is touched by his joy, simplicity and love for Christ. Fr. Paul is originally from an Italian family in Bronx, New York, and was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of New York in 1984.  He is currently parochial vicar of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Katonah, NY.  Last summer he joined the Regnum Christi Movement as a diocesan priest. Here he shares his experience:

How did you meet the Legion? 

It was in the early 90’s when I had been a priest for five years. A diocesan priest friend of mine invited me to a “Day of Recollection,” a type of retreat for priests which was organized by a Legionary of Christ, Fr. Peter Hopkins. The Day of Recollection was very helpful. I liked that what I was hearing was very deep and spiritual. I participated in those days of recollection for about a year or so. Then I was reassigned and moved to a different parish and lost touch with the Legion. 

From that point on, I had a great respect for the Legion. Later on I moved to a parish in Katonah, very close to Thornwood, and as our pastor was sick, we asked the Legionaries to help us with weekend Masses.  Also, the Legionaries started to preach Lent missions every year at
Joining Regnum Christi
Fr. Paul Waddell joins the Regnum Christi movement
our parish.

How did you receive the call to be a Regnum Christi member? And what is it like to be a diocesan priest and a member of the Regnum Christi movement? 

These past years in Katonah I became more and more impressed with the beautiful spirituality of the Legionaries I knew. I went to many events at their seminary in Thornwood and was very attracted to their spirituality. I was impressed with the seriousness, commitment, enthusiasm, and joy of the brothers. They kept inviting me to be more and more a part of their Legionary family. I started to learn more and more, and in my own prayer life I began feeling very connected to the Legion. The Lord put in my heart the desire to adopt the Legionaries as my brothers. I began to pray and intercede for the Legion in my own Holy Hour every morning. I prayed for all Legionaries before the Blessed Sacrament, especially during this recent time of trial and renewal. 

Then, last summer I was invited by a brother who had already been assigned to move elsewhere, to accompany the Legionaries of Thornwood and Cheshire on their vacation to New Hampshire. He asked the superiors if I could go, and they gave the green light. It was a really powerful and providential experience. There I experienced the strong prayerfulness of the Legionaries, even in the middle of vacation. We also had a lot of fun. We would have deep conversations with the brothers climbing the mountains during hikes. Some brothers would accompany me during the hikes. Every day I was with different brothers. We had beautiful conversations: the brothers shared their vocation stories, their difficulties, their lives, and they asked me questions about my own life. 

That was a retreat for me. I know that nobody is perfect, but I was very edified by their sincere love for Jesus Christ, their joy and real desire to conquer the world for him. That affected me deeply. 

Just before going to New Hampshire I read the book 33 days to Morning Glory and made a special consecration to Mary, leaving everything in her hands. The Blessed Mother listened to my prayers. Something was happening inside of me in New Hampshire. I was so happy. I felt that the Lord was asking me to take a further step in my life. It came strongly when I joined the prayers with the brothers. I would weep reading the prayers in their prayer book.  It
A gift to the Legion
Fr. Paul gave this crucifix to the Legion with the inscription, “With gratitude to my Legionary brothers.” It now hangs at the seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut.
was such a time of grace and growth.  A desire for deep prayer life came.

One day I went on an outing with the brothers and fathers, and on the way back, a priest sat beside me on the bus, and I told him: “I feel so connected to the Legion. How can I become closer, a real member of the family?” The following day I found myself joining the Regnum Christi movement at Mass with all the brothers present. When I came back to New York, I told my spiritual director what happened, to which he replied, “There is no doubt that God was powerfully at work in you.” 

Now I unite myself every day with the Legionaries, praying my morning prayers at the same time with them before the Blessed Sacrament in my parish, praying for all those I know by name. I feel that we are truly spiritually united. We are part of the same family. The fraternal support of my dear priest friends in the Legion has been an immense support, encouragement, and tremendous grace for me in my priesthood. They are true brothers and fathers to me by word and example -- true friends I can count on. 

What is your experience of the Charism of Regnum Christi? 

Recently I wanted to give a token to the Legionaries for what I have received from them. In the rectory where I live, I had a beautiful crucifix painted in Greece that meant a lot to me. I donated it to the Legion, and it is in Cheshire now. On the back I put a note saying: “With gratitude to my Legionary brothers.” 

As our Lord sent the Holy Spirit upon the fishermen and caught the whole world in his net, may He give to all Legionaries the gift of the Holy Spirit and the courage in this day and age to be his apostles, to catch the whole world in the net of the great Lover of mankind.  That is what I think of the Legion and Regnum Christ.  Our mission is to spread the Kingdom of Christ everywhere. Our charism is located in the New Evangelization of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. We need to do what Jesus did.  He took those fishermen, filled them with the Holy Spirit and caught the whole world in his net. That is what the Movement and Legion need to do -- to catch the whole world in our Lord’s net. 

How has the Legion and the Movement helped your parish? 

At times, in the spring, the ground is all dried up, and then there are a couple of days of rain.  It is that rain which is quiet, steady, and gentle.  This soft rain, little by little, penetrates the dry earth and life flourishes. That is what I saw the Legionaries doing in my parish when they came to celebrate Mass or when the brothers visited for a parish mission. Little by little, they touched the lives of people by their preaching and by their example. They caught people in the net of Christ. 

Do you have any message to the lay members of Regnum Christi?  

The Regnum Christi members need to be the yeast in the dough out in the world. They need to keep approaching people and giving witness. There are many people that have never experienced Christ in their lives.  They are deeply self-centered. Just as St. Thomas the Apostle needed to touch Christ to believe, many people will not believe unless they touch and see.  The Regnum Christy laity is supposed to be Christ to those people, so that they may touch, see and hear Christ through them, and doing this, they will come to believe.



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