'He confirmed'

New priest asked for guidance on future, received answer from above

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At 18 years old, Randy Dollins found himself in an unusual spot in life. Fresh out of high school, he was young, successful and earning a substantial salary as the art director of a flourishing sports wear company.

But, while all he had so much at so young, there was a more fitting description of the then-Aurora teen's plight in life.

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Unfulfilled.

Where he found a sense of satisfaction was not in the money of the corporate world, but in the charity and volunteerism of working with youth groups. In high school, he'd begun working with youths as a volunteer, and he carried the practice into adulthood.

Ministering, spreading the word of God, also appealed to him.

After some soul-searching, and having been encouraged by others, Dollins made the decision on how best to bridge the material demands of earning a living and feeding the spiritual hunger of the soul.

"I just thought one day, 'work pays the bills, ministry fills me up,'" said Dollins, the incoming assistant pastor at St. Michael Catholic Church in Craig. "What if there was a way I could do both?"

Dollins, 30, found the way.

A graduate of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, holding a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master's degree in theology, he was ordained May 12 and takes over at St. Michael for Father Jose Saenz on June 6.

Saenz, the assistant pastor for three years, has been given a new assignment with St. Vincent de Paul in Basalt, and St. Mary of the Crown in Carbondale. The church will host a going away celebration from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10 on the lawn behind Love INC of the Yampa Valley, 656 School St.

Dollins described his eight years of seminary study as "a very long engagement, if you will."

"It's the longest I've ever trained for any one thing," he said.

Preceding his enrollment at St. John Vianney, Dollins spent a year working as a Catholic missionary with the National Evangelization Team, sort of a Catholic version of the Road Rules. The 12-member team traveled the United States ministering to seventh-to-12th-grade students.

Dollins jokingly referred to the experience as a "vagabond ministry."

If the idea of becoming a priest was born before the missionary work, the evangelical trip allowed it to blossom. Dollins had no doubt about what he would do with his future and whom he would serve.

"Just totally commit myself to God," he said. "He confirmed that He wanted me to be a priest. ... I saw the greater good."

That's not to say Dollins didn't have some struggles with his and His decision. On the surface, he wrestled with the prospect of a lifetime of celibacy.

But, as he looked behind the myths society has built around sex, Dollins said he found clarity. Society sells the pleasure of sex, he said, not the true purpose behind it -- the bond between married couples and creating children.

And, because God called him to have a relationship with the church instead of a wife, the union between man and woman and children arising from it are impossible, thus sex held no purpose.

"Neither of those things is what my calling is about," he said.

The message of abstinence until marriage is something today's youth doesn't understand, Dollins said, and he tries to debunk the societal myths about sex when discussing the topic with youth groups.

"Outside of marriage, we're all called to be celibate," he explained.

Dollins' assignment to St. Michael is supposed to last three years, but because of a shortage in priests, that term could be less.

He spent time in Craig, Meeker and Rangely -- all areas where he will minister -- earlier this week, familiarizing himself with the parishes and communities.

He said he'll bring energy and a youth-oriented philosophy to the church, helping the parish realize its goal of "getting a more dynamic youth ministry."

Having spent three summers in Mexico, he also speaks Spanish and will be able to conduct Spanish-language mass services, continuing with the tradition the church offers now.

The journey from corporate America to the priesthood has been an unusual one, Dollins said, but he's pleased with the results.

"I have not wanted for anything," he said. "I've just been working for the church and God. I haven't had the need for anything else."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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