Photo: Felix Carroll
On Jan. 1, 2011, Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, (right) succeeded Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, (left) as director of the Association of Marian Helpers. Father Michael hopes to follow the examples set by Fr. Seraphim and the late Fr. Walter Pelczynski, MIC, seen in photo, top left. "To follow in the footsteps of men like these is humbling and an honor," Fr. Michael says.
Meet the New 'Father Joseph, MIC'
By Dan Valenti (Mar 3, 2011)
He's young for the job, but he's advanced in knowledge. Meet the new "Father Joseph, MIC," director of the Association of Marian Helpers. He's Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, 34, who on Jan. 1 took over as director from the renowned Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC.
Father Seraphim, 80, will be devoting his time to studying and writing about Divine Mercy. Father Michael will be devoting his time to "doing everything I can to get the message of Divine Mercy to more and more people."
Father Michael, author of the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus, says he does not have an overriding philosophy for the position or a preconceived agenda. Instead, he's listening, learning, and applying.
"I'm just getting started," he says, with typical humility. "I'm excited to begin this mission."
He says he will rely heavily on the talented staff at the Marian Helpers Center, from where the Association is run. The staff includes many skilled workers: printers and designers, artists and writers, technicians and program planners. As he puts it, "There's a tremendous amount of experience here. I pray for the wisdom and prudence that I may be able to benefit from the experience of others and to take the time to know how to employ the accumulated wisdom here."
Father Michael has spent the past year on Eden Hill, where the Association and the Marian Helpers Center are located and from where the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception administer the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
"Over the last year, I've learned a lot about the amount of talent we have here and the resources we can bring to bear on our work," Fr. Michael says. "That's what gives me confidence going into this position."
The new Father Joseph also says he absorbed a lot about leadership from playing sports in high school and college, including baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, football, and others. Father Michael says the fundamental lesson from competition, especially in team sports, is that "camaraderie is formed based on the commitment to succeed. The way you lead is by giving the team 110 percent of what you have. When others see you giving your all for the good of all and that you have team spirit, it inspires the other players. It's contagious."
He says the most exciting thing about beginning as the new Father Joseph is that, unlike in sports, where you give your heart for personal and temporal glory, spiritual effort is given "from the heart for what I believe is the most important message for humanity in our time: the message of Divine Mercy. The efforts concern the glory of God, and the effects last forever."
Father Michael has words of praise for the man he succeeded, Fr. Seraphim.
Father Seraphim, one of the world's foremost authorities on the message of Divine Mercy, has given Fr. Michael what the latter calls the perfect role model: "Fr. Seraphim has provided the best example of somebody who has worked so hard, for so long, not for himself but to see the fruits of his work, which is spreading the message of Divine Mercy on behalf of the Church and through it to all humanity."
Father Michael also singled out for praise the example set by the late Fr. Walter Pelczynski, MIC, longtime Father Joseph and a man who worked his entire priestly life in sacrifice for the Church and for telling the world about Jesus as The Divine Mercy.
"To follow in the footsteps of men like these is humbling and an honor," Fr. Michael says, adding that he "wants to be like them" in taking up the vital spiritual task without hesitation and without holding back.
Father Michael acknowledges his new role is a "serious responsibility, because [it involves] a deeply sacred, important message — the message that God loves you and that God forgives you, as soon as you turn to Him, no questions asked. He forgives and He forgets.
"I love the message of Divine Mercy, and I want to share it with as many people as possible," Fr. Michael says. "Divine Mercy is the sort of message many people haven't heard before. Many don't understand that God forgives. They need to know."
Father Michael makes a request of all Marian Helpers: "Please pray for me, that I may do the Lord's perfect will in spreading Divine Mercy."