Kevin Wells is the author of the bestselling The Priests We Need to Save the Church, which is a timely book if ever there were one.
Kevin and I are fellow parishioners at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Bowie, Maryland (in the Archdiocese of Washington), a parish whose history spans centuries. The extended Wells family remains a fixture in the Archdiocese of Washington, and my wife Bernadette and I were honored to have Kevin’s brother, Father Dave Wells, as a [then-transitional] deacon at our wedding on Aug. 15, 2009.
Kevin and all of his family have done monumental work via numerous ministerial engagements, and Kevin’s latest, The Priests We Need to Save the Church, is needed in modern times, as the laity looks for substantive ways to support faithful, orthodox priests and bishops in an era of confusion both inside and outside of the Church.
On the morning of Aug. 27 (the Memorial of Saint Monica), Kevin and I attended daily Mass at Sacred Heart before our scheduled interview. Mass for the Memorial of Saint Monica was celebrated by our pastor Father Ronald Potts (who continues a long line of faithful priests at Sacred Heart), and we then made our way to the adjacent cemetery for the interview. (Of course, Saint Monica was the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who was heavily influenced by Saint Ambrose of Milan. These two bishops show how such “priests we need to save the Church” have done just that within the priesthood and episcopacy for going on two thousand years.)
For the interview, we sat on a bench only a few feet from where a legendarily faithful priest, Kevin’s uncle Msgr. Thomas Wells, is buried. Msgr. Wells, whom Kevin affectionately calls “Uncle Tommy,” was savagely murdered in the rectory of Mother Seton Catholic Church in Germantown, Maryland, on June 8, 2000. Before we began the interview, I told Kevin that my late daughter, Baby Jo, whom Bernadette and I lost to miscarriage June 28, was also buried there in the cemetery, and he unflinchingly asked if we wanted to begin with a prayer there, so we walked over to her burial site and offered a prayer. You will soon see how such considerateness permeates Kevin’s ministerial engagements.
The following is the transcript of that morning’s interview. You will note, amid Kevin’s necessary candor and purposeful approach imbued with tough love, why The Priests We Need to Save the Church is already in its third printing from Sophia Institute Press. You will likely want to get various copies — for your family members, priests, and anyone of good will who wants to know how we got here and where we go from here, as we Catholic laypeople strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ guided by faithful shepherds.
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What are your hopes with The Priests We Need to Save the Church?
My great hope is that priests and seminarians will have the hope, humility, and courage to open themselves to the great challenge that I am recommending herein. The book is simply a synthesis of what I’ve thirsted for from priests for many years. The Catholic Church is gravely ill today and is suffering from the ravages of self-inflicted wounds, evil and subversive behavior.
Our Lady has been weeping for a very long time. If the Church is ever going to return to what it once was, it will unfold with the help of the day-to-day witness of the holy and faith-filled parish priest who wants to be a saint. The flock will see in him an intentionality, a solemnity, a ferocious zeal to spread the faith, and a deep desire to lead his flock to heaven. With this blazing furnace of truth, there will be sweeping conversions within his parish.
I am blessed to have several priests as close friends. They’ve saved marriages, redirected lives and done so much other good work to re-engineer lives because they are men of God attuned to souls.
Whom do you hope reads this book?
Ideally, the laity (maybe highlighting certain passages to share with their pastor). At the end of the day, the heart of this book was written for the laity — there is an eight-step process of exceptionalism to help carve us into saints within its pages. For instance, the truest measure of love is Christ nailed to the cross, so we, too, should want to dive into sacrificial living with that same idea of giving ourselves up.
As Christ and the greatest priest-saints were fervent in prayer, we, too, should have an ardent desire for a devoted and interior prayer life that leads us to true friendship with Christ. If we do these things (and the other characteristics of holy priests described in the book), we’ll find ourselves becoming sanctified.
Just this morning, I was thinking about how it took 30 minutes to drive to Mass, even though for 18 years, I belonged to a parish across the street. I could limp to this parish in minutes, but I felt my family wasn’t being lifted into the Mass or being led to sacrificial Catholic intentionality — so with great sadness, I sought a parish and community where Catholic dogma and doctrine was held aloft as a bright and blazing light, not as a dimly-lit candle.
Churches can begin to feel less Catholic, and the flock and the desire for true holiness withers away when a priest contracepts the clear teachings of the Church.
Saint John Vianney was a soul who deeply desired for his flock’s souls, so he spoke it, practiced it and lived it — and converted the entire countryside of France, whose faith was stolen by the French Revolution. In the priesthood today, sadly, I’ve seen what seems an anti-fatherhood. It can seem hard to sacrifice, to give a faithful homily. But all of us, including the parish priest, have to have a desire to be willing to die; I call it a “self-amputation.” We need a death to self. It is healthy. It is only then that everything will start to come back.
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Kevin is a seasoned journalist and writer himself, so I appreciate that he took the time to share about his efforts to sanctify both himself and others in the Church. You can follow Kevin’s work at www.thepriestsweneed.com (including videos and other print interviews) and on Twitter (@kjohnw and @priestsweneed).