Seminarian killed; dreamed of being 'Father Daniel'
'Uncommonly large heart' made him suited for priesthood
First-year seminarian Daniel Phillips was killed in a car wreck Dec. 18 near Danville.
Son of John and Catherine Phillips, he graduated from high school in May and entered Holy Trinity Seminary near Dallas in August. He was 19.
He attended Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Booneville (Logan County), where his mother is the director of religious education.
About 3 p.m., Phillips was driving west on Highway 10 in Yell County when his 2003 Jeep crossed the centerline and hit head-on with a Freightliner truck, driven by 34-year-old Victor T. Scrivner of Grapevine. Arkansas State Police said Scrivner was taken to Chambers Hospital in Danville to treat his injuries.
In a profile for the Diocese of Little Rock website, Phillips described his desire to be a priest since he was young.
"I remember every Sunday morning staring up at the pastor, thinking, 'That would be so cool.' I practiced holding my hands like the priest as he consecrated the bread and wine. I played priest when my siblings practiced for their first Communion, handing them potato chips, proclaiming, 'The Body of Christ.' At night, I would quietly whisper to myself, 'Father Daniel.'"
As a teenager he decided he would rather get married and have children, but people in his life kept asking him, "Have you thought about being a priest?"
"Once, as I shook hands with a priest whom I had never met, he looked at me and said, 'This one is called to be a priest.' I began to feel pressured that everyone expected me to become a priest and this caused me to turn further away."
He said the priesthood was again considered after talking with his mother during his junior year of high school, and they examined Phillips' talent of public speaking and his love for the Church, helping people and learning about new cultures.
"My mom also said that my greatest gift was that I have an uncommonly large heart, a heart that has a place for everyone," he wrote. "This kind of embarrassed me so I quickly shushed her and asked about colleges. I decided on being a social worker."
Last December Phillips attended the Come and See retreat hosted by the Diocese of Little Rock at St. John Center in Little Rock.
"I found myself enchanted by the stories that I heard of what a priest's life is really like. I talked to (vocations director) Msgr. (Scott) Friend about all that I had experienced, and I asked him about what the priesthood means to him. What really opened my eyes, was when he said that he had 'the heart of a priest.' He described this to me as having a love that welcomed everyone. And then he asked me, 'What's holding you back?'
Following the retreat, Phillips began actively discerning his calling.
"Even though I still had so many questions, surrendering myself to God's will brought me something I hadn't felt in a long time -- peace," he said.
Phillips ended his profile with these two sentences: "Today my desire for the priesthood is stronger than ever. Whether I am led all the way to ordination or not, I trust in God and will continue to seek his will for me."
Msgr. Friend is out of the country and was not immediately available for comment.
The rosary for Phillips is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Booneville. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Abbey Church in Subiaco.
To watch a video on Phillips' calling, visit http://bit.ly/danielphillips.
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