November 03, 2022
Trusting in Providence
Since its founding, Providence College has inspired young men to join the Dominican Order of Preachers. On May 21, 2022, Rev. Damian Marie Day, O.P. ’15 and Rev. James Mary Ritch, O.P. ’08 were among 10 new priests ordained by Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. ’65 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. At our invitation, they wrote reflections.
By Rev. Damian Marie Day, O.P. ’15
Why did I become a Dominican priest? A sarcastic joke, a late-night talk, and good friends will help me explain.
My first interaction with a Dominican was not what I expected. As a wide-eyed first-year student, I politely introduced myself to Father James Cuddy — then college chaplain — and rather smugly told him the view of St. Dominic Chapel from my room in McDermott was very nice. Without missing a beat, he shot back, “It looks even better on the inside. You should try stepping in sometime.”
That down-to-earth sense of humor comes from being well-grounded in the truth. The joy I saw in the Dominicans on campus came from knowing who God is and who they were. That means seeing through to the goodness of God and his love for us, while not ignoring all the brokenness of this world. Grasping the truth of God’s love gave them the joy — and sense of humor — that drew me to the Dominican Order.
A few days after my ordination to the priesthood, I was back at PC walking around campus. In front of St. Dominic Chapel, I ran into Father Nicanor Austriaco.
“Well, Father Nic,” I said, “a lot has happened since the last time we sat here and talked.”
It was about 10 years earlier. Like many first-year students, I was having something of an existential crisis about the direction of my life. I had plans for my future — marriage, kids, graduate school — but something had begun to intrude on these well-laid plans. It was unsettling and, quite frankly, rather terrifying: a gnawing suspicion that God might actually want me to be a Dominican priest.
I sat in the chapel wrestling with this new desire and my old plans late one night. Finally, I said to myself, “Alright, I’d better just talk to a priest about this.” Immediately, Father Nic bustled in, knelt down in prayer for a moment, and then walked out. Short of a vision of angels, I’m not sure how much clearer God could have been with me. So I scurried out after Father Nic. We sat on a bench and talked for an hour or two.
Father Nic didn’t clear up all of my confusion or decide my future for me. But he did renew my trust in God’s providence. And that was what I needed. I was so focused on myself that I’d lost sight of God’s goodness. In a society that struggles so much with hope, we all need a reminder of God’s goodness and grace. Renewing that trust in his providence helped free me for the truly awesome plan he has for me.
Shortly after my recent chat with Father Nic outside St. Dominic Chapel, I was inside the chapel celebrating Mass for a small group of PC friends. They were all married couples with kids, including one of my roommates and his wife, who was days away from giving birth to their first child. We’d all spent hours in this chapel as students. Some had been married here. Reflecting on our time at PC and our lives since then, I realized how much our PC friendships had shaped us.
We had good times together for sure, but my PC friends are more than “drinking buddies” or “fair-weather friends.” Their friendship — their example, their encouragement, their conversations — made me a more virtuous person. I am the man I am today, I am a Dominican priest today, in large part because of my friends. PC gave me those kinds of friendships.
I hope to share with the world that joy, that trust in God’s providence, and that friendship that led me to the Dominican Order.
At the beginning of my priestly ministry, I look back with gratitude to my time at PC. I’m grateful for the knowledge and desire for wisdom that my professors instilled. I’m grateful to the Dominican priests — whom I now call my brothers — who drew me closer to God. I’m grateful to my friends who have enriched and shaped my life. Most of all, I’m grateful to God for his providence — and for Providence College.
Father Damian, formerly Joseph Day ’15 from Rehoboth, Mass., studied history at Providence College and was co-valedictorian of his class. Following a summer assisting with priestly ministry at St. Louis Bertrand, the Dominican parish in Louisville, Ky., he returned to the Dominican House of Studies this fall to complete a licentiate in sacred theology.reflection by rev. james mary ritch, o.p. ’08