Pints of beer at old English pubs listed on grungy menus on Thursday nights spent in Nottingham and Derbyshire were the usual order of things for Father Christopher McBride, C.F.R.
“I wasn’t thinking about God,” he said.
In fact, Father McBride, 38, hadn’t really thought of God since he stopped attending Mass at age 17.
As a child he attended Mass regularly at Our Lady and St. Thomas of Hereford with his parents, Thomas and Megan, and sisters Caroline and Donna. The family even prayed the Rosary together on occasion in their home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, England.
But practicing the faith didn’t last for Father McBride who turned his attention in another direction. He took a business course at South East Derbyshire College, after which he held various jobs in accounting and sales for seven years. During that time, he dated and found a serious girlfriend. From the outside, it looked like a good life. But inside there was something missing.
While at work, he couldn’t hold down the questions in his mind any longer.
“I came to a point where I started to wonder what I was doing,” Father McBride said.
As he drove in his car, he continued to ponder if he was happy with his life, where he was going, and his thoughts on God. “Looking back you could say I was praying,” he said with a quiet laugh.
“I had a strong experience that Jesus was real,” he said.
That one extraordinary moment changed the course of his life.
He decided to enter the (former) Pilgrims Community, a lay evangelization movement for young people that led parish missions and taught religious education in schools, among other ministries. He stayed with the community for two years. “I just fell in love with God,” he said.
When he left, he knew he wanted to be part of a religious community. “As much as marriage is beautiful, it wasn’t what I was called to be.”
He visited the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal who have a house in London and from the first moment he fit. The fraternity and brotherhood appealed to him.
He entered the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 2004 and professed final vows in 2009. Once a brother, after serious prayer and discernment, he knew there was more that he had to do. “I had a strong sense God meant me to be a priest.”
At 27, the idea of starting school again appeared dreadful. But Father McBride knew that it was what he had to do. He began studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary in 2011.
“The main thing that made me desire to be a priest was, in my own life, experiencing God’s mercy. A priest is a great instrument of that mercy. It’s a beautiful thing,” he said.
Father Christopher McBride, C.F.R. will concelebrate his First Mass with Father Ignatius Shin, C.F.R., on Sunday, May 24 at St. Adalbert’s Church in the Bronx at 10:30 a.m. He will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving at Our Lady and St. Thomas of Hereford, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, England.