Donna Beery, Mother of Jeff Coning, Vocations Director of the Columbus Diocese, Parish Priest since 1997.
When asked about her son’s call to the priesthood, Donna describes it as a positive experience that began when Jeff was a senior in high school.
“My first reaction when he told me he was not going to OSU, but instead wanted to go to the seminary was – there goes grandchildren – just for a moment. But then I thought it was so right for Jeff. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Coning family reluctantly dealt with divorce around the time Jeff was being ordained to the priesthood.
“When friends asked me how we handled a divorce, after a 30-year marriage, at about the time Jeff was being ordained a priest, I told them that Jeff’s vocation was unaffected. We loved him and supported him as we always have.”
Donna wants parents of seminarians to understand that becoming a priest doesn’t mean the young man has to change who he is or stop enjoying life.
“Priests don’t walk around with their hands folded and pounding their chests. They’re human. They get mad, sad, and lonely, they have fun. Jeff has a great sense of humor.”
When asked if priests are lonely, Donna replies:
“No way. Jeff’s life is rewarding and satisfying. He is there for all those life-changing moments in people’s lives. I would want Jeff there with anything critical going on in my life. He is so faith-filled.”
When asked about the realities of the priesthood, Donna sums it up this way:
“There is no off duty time for a priest.”
Donna reflected on Jeff’s Ordination as a very special day for the parents. She described how she received the white holy cloth used to wipe off the holy oil off the seminarian during the ordination ceremony. “What an honor!” And the first blessing goes to the mother of the newly ordained priest too.
“When Jeff was lying prone at the altar (ordination) he moved from our family to the family of the priesthood.”
One of the things Donna believes her son does very well is counsel engaged/married couples.
“People ask: how can a priest counsel married couples? What can they know about marriage? They know a lot from their own parents. You don’t have to have cancer or heart disease to counsel someone who has those conditions. You just need compassion.”
When asked about how being the mother of a priest has influenced her faith, Donna replies that “it has never been stronger.”
When parents of seminarians worry about their sons, Donna has this advice.
“Know that there is a plan. I’ll go with the Divine plan.”
Donna recommends that parents help their sons be quiet and listen to God throughout the process.
“If parents have faith and believe in God’s will, they can enjoy the priesthood along with their sons.”