An Interview with Liam Helms

By Gordon Nary




Gordon: When you received your vocation, why did you choose to study to be a Salvatorian?

Liam: I did not choose to be a Salvatorian at first, I had no idea what a Salvatorian was, much less a religious order. I guess I always had a calling to the priesthood in the back of my mind. I am a former Anglican, and I wanted to be an Anglican Priest. In 2005 while working for FEMA in New Orleans, the Lord called me to the Catholic Church. I still had this calling to be a priest; it was still present in me. However, now things were different, being a Catholic priest meant I would never get married or have kids.

I had to rethink the whole priest thing, and I thought about it till 2015. In 2015 I started making progress in the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the Archdiocese of New Orleans, talking with the Vocations Directors. I played a lot of phone tag with the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese, so in 2016 I went with the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Later that year, I started at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. While there I really started spending more time with the religious, over my own diocese brothers. They were mostly Dominican’s, so I started thinking about religious life. I came out of formation at Notre Dame, and the diocese. I started looking into religious orders. I looked at the Dominicans, the Carmelites, the Norbertines, Benedictines, and Jesuits.

But I discovered the Salvatorians in a parish church in Huntsville, Alabama. They seemed to be everything that I was looking for plus more. I called Vocations and talk for about an hour, and made a few trips up to Milwaukee, WI and in December of 2017 I moved here and joined.

Gordon: What were some of the factors that affected your decision to be a seminarian?

Liam: Well of course anyone that has a calling to be a priest, will go through seminary. Even some brothers or monks go to seminary for a Master of Art in Theology. So, first of all I am not called to be a seminarian, I don’t think anyone is called to be a seminarian, we are called into some type of ministry. As a religious we are called to our order first and then to be priest of brothers secondly.

So, I will talk about factors that affected my decisions to be a Salvatorian, rather than a seminarian. I mentioned before that I discovered the Salvatorians in Huntsville, AL. I went to pray the Rosary at an abortion clinic, I had read about it in the One Voice Catholic Newspaper. There I meet Br. Joseph S.D.S., He was leading the rosary. He was a much older man, and his face and hands wore all the missions he had worked on them. His habit was old and torn in many places. All stitched back up of course, but each of those repairs held some great story of the faith.

I knew that I wanted to be a religious there was no question there. But after meeting Br. Joseph, I knew I fully wanted to be Apostolic. Now as I grew to know the Salvatorians, I quickly learned just how apostolic they are. There are all different types of ministries in the Society, from parish work, to working at a Salvatorian summer camp.

So, I would say trying to figure out where I fit in the middle of all that, and where the Holy Spirit was calling me, all affected my decisions. Now that I am here, I am learning so much more about the Salvatorians and I know that I made the right decision.

Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of “Years on Fire: Passion for Mercy”

Liam: The Society of the Divine Savior’s (Salvatorians) traveled coast to coast in 2017 commemorating 125 years in the United States. The events kicked off in December 2016 in Tucson, AZ with the release of Fr. Joe Rodrigues SDS fifth music CD. The CD, titled "Mission of Mercy: Fr. Joe and Friends" highlights the religious orders’ 125th Anniversary of ministry in the United States and culminates the “Year of Mercy” as designated by Pope Francis. In fact, the CD is dedicated to Pope Francis and his inspirational message. It truly was a great time and a wonderful concert, filled with good fellowship.

Gordon: What has been your most interesting course to date and why?

Liam: At the school I really liked Catholic Doctrine II, because it really focuses on everything leading to Vatican II, then Vatican II and what happened after. It really focuses in on good church documents, that most people never have read. You hear people slamming Vatican II all the time these days. But if they took the time to read and understand the documents and what they say, then they would know that we are in a more original form of the mass now, and it is still truly holy and beautiful, the Holy Spirit along with the Bishops did well.

That is just a seminary class, remember I said I am called to be a Salvatorian first! We have classes as well, there part of our formation. Truly my favorite class is called “Because He Hoped in Me”, it is the name of the book about our Founder, Fr. Francis of the Cross Jordan, SDS, written by Fr. Leonard Gerke, SDS. So, you really get to learn the starting of the Society and the founder.

Gordon: What are some of the missions of the Salvatorians?

Liam: I would encourage anyone that wanted to learn more to go to http://www.salvatorians.com/what-we-do/

But to just highlight some, we have the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse.

There is Camp St. Charles.

There is the Jordan Ministry Team.

There is the Tanzanian Missions.

There is the Southwest Medical Supply.

You can read about all these plus a lot more on our website. But there is still more that in not on the website. We also have a lot of different parishes all over the United States, we are in hospitals, and at universities as Campus Ministers. There is more than I can ever fully highlight here.

Gordon: What social media resources do you prefer and why?

Liam: I like Facebook, because I can stay in contact with friends and family pretty easy. I use Twitter some, its all normally Salvatorian- related stuff. I also use LinkedIn; however I am still learning how to fully us that one.

Gordon: What in your experience, are the most challenging spiritual challenges affecting young people?

Liam: Not recognizing a calling or being too afraid to say yes. Thinking that God could not want them, that there a sinner, and have done stupid things. People forget that Jesus called sinners to be his Apostles and Disciples. He did not go out and get the best among the Jews, no he got common everyday people.

When you say yes to God, and let the Holy Spirit work through you, you can do amazing things in this world. You can become that change that you want to see in the world. It just takes enough courage to say yes, and then to see where the path goes.

Also, there is no shame in not completing, and becoming a Priest, Brother or Sister. People fear being a failure, and that is the wrong attitude. Because God is the one that places the calling in us. We never place the calling to the Priesthood or Religious life in our own selves. That calling is to sacred for that, and our calling may feel like it is not as strong at times. That is when you really work harder with your spiritual director.

In the end, if you and the church feel that you should come out of formation. That is something that should be celebrated, and not be something to shame. Because you have been formed as a good strong Catholic man or women.

So, I would encourage anyone that might think they have a calling, to call a vocations director and talk with them. It is not like joining the military, there not trying to recruit you. But you can not fully discern a calling without help, and you certainly can’t do it from the sofa.

Gordon: What is your favorite sports team?

Liam: The New Orleans Saints!!! “Who Dat”

Gordon: What advice would you give to those who may be reflecting on if they have a vocation?

Liam: Keep praying, don’t talk to God so much, but truly listen. Set some time aside each day to pray. Do some good spiritual reading, read what the saints wrote.

If these feelings stay, then reach out to your parish pastor or another priest that you like. Talk to them about it, and get a spiritual director, a good spiritual director is key in my opinion.

If after a few months these feelings are still there, reach out to a vocations director. Remember you are fully committed to anything until you are ordained in a Diocese or make vows in a religious order.

Even at the beginning in seminary, you and church are dancing with one another, learning each other. You are dating the church, you think you might want to marry the church one day. But try to not think about that at first. Just learn to be in the moment, and trust in the church. You have not said “I do” so if you find this is not for you, then talk about that with your spiritual director and vocations director and let them help you make a plan for extra prayer time and pastoral time or a good plan for an exit from formation.

People have left formation before only to find out they made that decision too quickly, so take your time in all you do, and always talk with your formation team.

Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.

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