Skip to comments.Cathedral rector’s priestly journey began with early conversion
Posted on 07/02/2009 5:29:57 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler
Fr. Rob Clements was just 10 years old when he discovered the beauty of the Catholic faith. He had been riding his bike in Sacramento when he stumbled upon a large Catholic church.
Leaving his bike parked outside, he entered to find a priest in the midst of the concluding rites for a funeral.
It was just spectacular, Fr. Clements said. I saw the casket with the black cover on it and the crosses. The priest incensed the body and I was just blown away with this.
When he headed back outside the church, he discovered his bike was gone. By this time it was getting dark and a storm was approaching.
I was easily two and a half miles from home and I was terrified, Fr. Clements said. He found the rectory and rang the bell.
The priest who came to the door, an Irishman named Fr. Connie OConnor, assured the boy his bike had merely been moved. Four years later, having learned more about the faith from the Irish priest, Rob Clements became a Catholic.
The future priests family eventually relocated to Tempe, where he attended Marcos de Niza High School and then Arizona State University. Fr. Clements graduated with a degree in finance and French and planned on a career in international business.
It was while working for a local bank that he reached a crucial juncture in his life. The bank had sent the young man out on repossession assignments before, but this time was different.
I went out to repossess a microwave. This poor woman her husband had left her with four little kids. Her little boy, who couldnt have been more than 5, looked at me and he said, Youre not going to take our stuff, are you? I couldnt do it I turned in my notice a week later, Fr. Clements said.
After his ordination to the priesthood in 1990, Fr. Clements was assigned to St. Mary Parish in Chandler. He next served as the vocations director for the Phoenix Diocese for six years, then returned to St. Mary as pastor in 1999.
In 2005, Fr. Clements became the rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral where he has served ever since.
Looking back over his nearly 20-year ministry as a priest, he recalled some memorable moments.
He told the story of meeting an irate woman following packed Easter Sunday Masses at St. Mary a few years ago. The woman, who was not a Catholic, only went to Mass once a year on Easter. She approached him following Mass, expressing her outrage at not having been able to find a seat in the church.
Fr. Clements, who was shaking hands with parishioners and taken aback at the womans indignant attitude, quipped that she ought to call ahead for reservations the next year.
Some time later, the woman fell ill. Her neighbors summoned Fr. Clements, who was somewhat puzzled at the request of a non-Catholic for a visit from a priest.
I answered her questions and said, How does that all sound? She said, Ill take it. He baptized and confirmed the new believer, giving her Holy Communion and the anointing of the sick. Three days later, the woman died.
Fr. Clements also remembered receiving a heartfelt letter from a woman who, for her own safety, had divorced her husband years ago. Though she never remarried outside the Church, she felt she had been excommunicated.
Fr. Clements was able to reassure her that she had not ever been outside the flock and should immediately seek the sacraments.
Around age 11, I said, I like this, this seems like me and I see me doing that. I wasnt even Catholic yet. But it didnt solidify until after college when I met Fr. Sigman, who was at St. Daniels as pastor at the time. He had patience with my immaturity in the faith.
Yes, Fr. Sigman did. I remember I was helping him carry some boxes, and he said, You know, I think you have a vocation to the priesthood and Im praying that you recognize it.
Pray as a family and encourage healthy activities like athletics, especially team sports with other strong Catholic guys; being friends with a priest, inviting your priest over for a family dinner. Get to know your parish priest. Speak positively of priests and religious I think thats critical.
When I first read the headline I read “Cathedral ReActor’s Priestly Journey Began w/Early Conversion” and I was thinking Light Water? Heavy Water? Holy Water?”
Fr. Clements would most likely roll his eyes at your humor, as he does with mine.
**The priest who came to the door, an Irishman named Fr. Connie OConnor, assured the boy his bike had merely been moved. Four years later, having learned more about the faith from the Irish priest, Rob Clements became a Catholic.**
What a cute testimoney — moving his bike so it wouldn’t get stolen and then being the path to his conversion!