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Future priest shaped by priest-mentors, now intercessors

Editor’s note: Five men were to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Baltimore June 20, a rite which was pushed back to Aug. 22 by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the third of five separate profiles of the men, which will appear once a week on CatholicReview.org.

When Deacon Justin Gough lifts the chalice for the first time at his first Mass after ordination as a priest, he will remember a man who was a priest for 69 years, Monsignor Arthur W. Bastress, who died July 16.

Deacon Justin Gough assists at a July 26, 2020 Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Baynesville. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Monsignor Bastress had already intended to give the chalice to the young priest. In fact, Deacon Gough had planned to visit the monsignor July 16 to receive the chalice – which had been replated and engraved with the new priest’s name – when he found out his mentor had passed away earlier that day.

Archbishop William E. Lori used the chalice during the consecration at Monsignor Bastress’ funeral. The family asked Deacon Gough to come to the cemetery for the final commitment service. 

“After his body was put into the ground, his brother Paul presented me the chalice on behalf of the family,” Deacon Gough told the Catholic Review. “So, I’ve got it, and it looks beautiful.” 

The next time it will be used will be for his first Mass.

According to Deacon Gough, no one enters a priestly vocation without having some priestly mentor. In addition to Monsignor Bastress, he recalls two other priests who had a profound impact on his life, both of whom are also deceased.

The first was Father Kevin W. Brooksbank, an associate pastor at Deacon Gough’s home parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Baynesville, who died in 2008 at age 35.

“I’d say he was really the first priest that I looked up to,” he told the Catholic Review a month ahead of his Aug. 22 ordination.

Like Deacon Gough, Father Brooksbank had a great love of music. He also had a great personality and sense of humor. 

“When I was first thinking about priesthood,” Deacon Gough said, “he was the model priest I had in mind.”

Father Michael Carrion, the longtime IHM pastor who died last November, was another shining example of the priesthood. Father Carrion arrived at the parish when Justin was in second grade, taught him to serve Mass and gave him his first holy Communion.

“And then he took a real big chance on me when I was in eighth grade. I had been playing piano for the contemporary group,” Deacon Gough said, of a group Father Carrion asked him to lead. “He put a 14-year-old kid in charge of adults and told me I had to teach them how to sing,” Deacon Gough recalled in a December 2019 interview in Rome, where he was studying at the Pontifical North American College. 

Deacon Gough isn’t sure that putting him in charge of the group was the most prudent thing to do, but knows that the experience of working closely with Fathers Carrion and Brooksbank inspired him. 

“That had an incredible effect on me and my discernment because it gave me firsthand knowledge of what parish ministry is like,” he said.

While he acknowledges that he will miss his priest-mentors, Deacon Gough said, “It’s good to have that hope that on the other side now there’s an intercessor – and that is even more helpful, in a sense, than having their friendship and companionship in this life.”

Tom Bozek, director of music and liturgy at Immaculate Heart, has known Deacon Gough since he began serving at the altar in third grade. He said a lot of people saw in him early on the qualities that would make a good priest, earning him the nickname, even as a boy, of “Father Justin.”

Deacon Justin Gough of the Archdiocese of Baltimore presents Pope Francis a Ravens jersey signed by Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Lamar Jackson Dec. 3 in Vatican City. (Courtesy Archdiocese of Baltimore)

Bozek said the deacon wants to serve others. Assisting at the parish as a deacon since he returned from Rome in March, he has already been officiating at baptisms and marriages. “He’s relishing those things, being involved in and being around people,” Bozek said.

Back in December, Deacon Gough said he looks forward to accompanying parishioners “in every stage of life from baptizing their children, to hearing their confessions, to saying Mass every day, to being there when it’s a difficult moment” or a crisis or death in the family.

“You know, I mean, it’s everything. And sometimes all that happens in a single day,” he said.

After ordination, Deacon Gough is supposed to return to Rome for a final year of education, but that may be on hold for a while. As a student, he would be allowed to return, despite the European Union travel ban on Americans, but he would have to quarantine for 14 days – as he did when he came back to the United States at the height of Italy’s dealing with the pandemic. “I would like to not do that again,” he said wryly. 

Until he can return to Rome, Deacon Gough will attend his classes online. He will also be formally assigned for sacramental assistance at Immaculate Heart, where he expects to celebrate one Mass a weekend, with new pastor Father Jeffrey Dauses taking the others. He will also help out at other parishes as a “utility player.”

He hopes to be able to continue playing and composing music, even if just as a hobby.

Deacon Justin Gough

AGE: 26

SPONSORING PARISH: Immaculate Heart of Mary, Towson

FAMILY: Lisa Gough and Gerard (Jerry) Gough; no siblings

EDUCATION: Immaculate Heart of Mary (pre-K–8); Calvert Hall College High School, Towson; Our Lady of Providence Seminary (college seminary) and Providence College (B.A. in philosophy); Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas “Angelicum” in Rome, (S.T.B.; currently working on S.T.L. in Dogmatics and Fundamental Theology)

PASTORAL ASSIGNMENTS: Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine, Halethorpe/Elkridge; St. Michael, Frostburg, St. Joseph, Midland, St. Peter, Westernport, St. Ann, Grantsville, parishes that became Divine Mercy Parish; Our Lady of Grace, Parkton; St. John the Evangelist, Severna Park; Immaculate Heart of Mary 

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Email Christopher Gunty at editor@catholicreview.org

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