Father Michael Bass first walked into a Catholic church on Dec. 8, 1976, as part of the Mills High School choir.
They were at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock to sing for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
"Something clicked on for me," he said. "There was just a presence in the church building itself. The people were so reverent...it was like they were expecting God to appear. Later, I found out that they were expecting that. It was a completely different attitude than I was used to."
Father Bass was raised Baptist in the Little Rock area. He is still close to his family -- mother, Margaret, and older sister, Sandra. His father, Samuel, died in 1973. His mother married his late stepfather, Billy Lockhart, in 1976.
He started asking questions in his senior year, and his choir director said he should talk to the priest at Holy Souls, Father Joseph Correnti.
At the age of 18, he was received into the Catholic Church after attending instruction with Father Correnti at Holy Souls. His family took it in stride.
"They weren't concerned about it. They thought it was a phase and I would soon grow out of it. They got more concerned when it started to look more serious. When I went to the seminary, they knew it wasn't just a phase. By the time I was ordained, they had settled down and gotten used to the idea," he said.
Ultimately, he said, his family supported him when he was ordained a priest on Aug. 8, 1987.
After ordination, he has served at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, St. John Church in Hot Springs, Christ the King Church in Little Rock, St. Paul Church in Pocahontas, Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton, St. Theresa Church in Little Rock, and now at Immaculate Conception in North Little Rock. He has been traveling since July to St. Michael Church in Cherokee Village and St. Mary Church in Batesville to say Masses in Latin there. He also serves as chaplain for the Calix Society.
"I have been real blessed to see God at work in people's lives. Being able to baptize a child in one parish seeing them through the years and later getting married in another parish. It is a gift. Or to see schoolchildren who are now married with their own kids. The priesthood has allowed me to be a factor for good in people's lives," he said. "As a young priest, you don't see that. But over the years, you do. It is a good feeling. It's following in the footsteps of Jesus."
His call to the priesthood came naturally in the course of joining the Church.
"Ultimately, because after becoming Catholic, I started thinking about the priesthood. I found this was what God was calling me to do. I went to the seminary to see if it was a genuine call or not. The jury is still out on that. I think I need another 25 years to be sure," he said laughing.
All joking aside, he said, after 25 years as a priest, he is where he is meant to be.
"It is analogous to marriage -- why do you stay committed. I made a solemn vow to do the best I could to bring his presence to people in many ways, wherever they are in their situations," he said. "The Lord knew what he was doing when he called me. I am more committed now than ever before."
After a car wreck in 2008, Father Bass found himself in a battle for his life. The doctors told his family to make arrangements for his funeral.
"The doctors said I wasn't going to make it and the Lord said I was. Guess who won?" he said. "It tells me that he has more work for me to do."
He spent eight weeks in the hospital and many more months recovering. The people from his parish at Benton came out to support him. That support in a truly difficult time was the reason he chose to have his 25th anniversary celebration in Benton. To share a happy time with the people who held him up when he was suffering.
"They came up to the hospital in droves," he said. "It was extremely meaningful. They can say they love you, but when they turn out in force -- that's when you know it. You know you are home."
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