Tony Hollowell, a 2006 ACE Teaching Fellows graduate who has undertaken many adventures in support of Catholic schools, is living a new set of adventures these days as a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. During his studies to be a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, he was invited to be lector at the March 12 Conclave Mass for the Church’s College of Cardinals, just a couple of days before they elected Pope Francis. Tony was in St. Peter’s Square among the throngs present to hear the words “Habemus Papam” and to enjoy the introduction to the new Holy Father.
Thank you, Tony, for taking the time in a seminarian’s busy life, especially during Lent and during these early days of the new papacy, to share the following reflections with your ACE family:
When I found out that I would be doing the first reading at the Mass to begin the Conclave, the first thing I thought was “I have to tell my family!”
I knew my parents would be excited, but through the whole experience, God showed me just how big my family has grown over the course of my life. As I sat in Saint Peter's, two hours before the start of the Mass, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the wonderful people God had put into my life, people who had become a part of my family.
High school teachers, grade school principals, college roommates, students I had taught, mentors who had taught me, families that I had met—the list went on and on. Pulsing right in the middle of all this gratitude was an ineffable joy for the many people that I encountered while being a part of the ACE program.
I received many notes of encouragement from all these people whom I had encountered in ACE. God showed me that my family has continued to grow steadily as I continue to try to serve Him.
I did the “ACE Teaching Fellows” program with ACE. Our Holy Father Francis has proclaimed, “To be powerful is to serve.” He knows what I learned in ACE—namely, by serving others, we become powerful through love.
When I began to teach in Mississippi, I was confused, frustrated, tired, and just not very good. But that eventually did not matter. Though I was inexperienced, I was given mentors. Though I was weak, my love was strengthened. Though I was away from home, my family grew.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a grain. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit.” The many emails and messages of encouragement I received from people that I met in ACE were the abundant fruit of two years of ACE Teaching Fellows.
They were sacramental reminders of the immeasurable love God pours out on those who serve Him. Truly, to be powerful is to serve.
I am continually reflecting on experiences and lessons learned in ACE and applying it to my journey in the seminary.
The greatest lesson ACE ever taught me was a fundamental truth of the Christian faith, that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” It is only through the cross that we will ever attain the Resurrection, a fact that Holy Week seeks to imprint on our hearts.
The name of the school I served in ACE was called Resurrection Catholic School. That is a prophetic name for the lesson learned in ACE, for it was through ACE that I first learned the joy of the Resurrection that comes from carrying the cross and following Christ.
God simply will never be outdone in generosity, giving us tenfold in return for every act of faith made out of love of Him. Thus, I remain in a debt of gratitude before a God who continues to expand my family to include more and more holy men and women, building us up together into the Body of Christ. And there is always room for more.
Homepage photo of Pope Francis: License Some rights reserved by the Catholic Church (England and Wales)
Photo of Tony Hollowell, provided by him, shows his ministry as lector at the Cardinals' Conclave Mass on March 12, 2013.
A March 15 article in the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper, The Criterion, talked about Tony’s journey.
You can see a video of Tony’s ministry as lector at the Conclave Mass.
You can hear an audio recording of Tony's interview on national Catholic radio on March 15. He spoke to the Son Rise Morning Show about his first glimpse of Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.
Also see ACE’s previous story about Tony and Notre Dame Magazine’s story about Tony as a cross-country cyclist supporting Catholic schools.