Not Your Average Priest

Not Your Average Priest

Alex Boisvert, Staff Writer

Father John Fleming is a priest at the Parish of The Transfiguration on Kelley Street in Manchester. He is a kind, laid back, and humble man who loves vampire novels and using a blowtorch. He seems like your average everyday priest, but looks can be very deceiving.

When Father John is not planning a homily or a mass, he enjoys cooking, traveling, and browsing on the internet. Seems average enough, but when asked about what his favorite genre of book is, he stated that he enjoys historical novels, specifically about the American Revolution which is his favorite time period. He mainly enjoys modern vampire novels, which you would not expect a priest to enjoy. He observes, “The idea that the vampire is living in a dual society with us is fascinating to me.” He recalled a series he recently read, and the author live in Newton, Mass, and uses local places for the setting in his stories. “I ate exactly where the vampire ate!” he said.

Father John also enjoys browsing on the internet, more specifically googling things. If he wants to learn something, he looks it up on google, “and then it will lead me to another thing, and then another thing and so on.” he said. He does the same thing when looking at church law. “I look up something about weddings,” he explains, “and the next thing I know, I’m learning about how they elect a pope.” he said. “I look up things that satisfy my curiosity.”

Father John also has a passion for cooking. When he was going to school for becoming a priest, one of his teachers taught him how. “We would cook meals for each other every now and then but he basically started that passion.” Father John remembers. He is very detail oriented and  loves to create intricate details with cooking gadgets. “The priest that taught me how to cook, would use as many gadgets as possible when cooking. I liked that too!” he said. When it comes to visiting a kitchen supply shop, he is like a kid in a candy store. If an attendant were to approach him and ask if he needed anything, he would say, “I. Want. Everything.” He firmly believes that the more gadgetry you use when cooking, the better the meal.

His favorite food to prepare are appetizers. “You can serve them in many different ways, which all involve some sort of gadget.” He said that a particular item that he absolutely loves to make is creme brulee. His reasoning? “Because at the end you get to use a flaming torch,” which just so happens to be one of his favorite gadgets to use, next to his beloved espresso maker. “I love fire,” he remarked with a straight face.

Father John tends to enjoy music from his era, around the 70’s and 80’s. “I hate that you’re taping this,” he jokes. His taste includes The Carpenters, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Abba, Disco music etc. He was asked if he had an overall favorite artist, and he said that it depended on his mood. “I was driving back from visiting a friend, and I was blasting Twisted Sister in the car.”  

Even though he has less conventional interests, he has a lot of passion for his job. There are two different joys he gets from it. The first being able to share the happy moments with his parishioners such as afficiating their weddings, going to graduation parties and doing baptisms. The second is not so much a joy, but “More like a satisfaction in a way,” he explained. A feeling of accomplishment when helping someone through a very difficult time, and helping families deal with loved ones who are sick or dying. “Just being able to walk through those last three or four days,” he says “helping them work through decisions, being able to listen and to talk with them, makes me feel like I helped and makes me feel like I made a difference somehow.” he said.

He was overall motivated to become a priest because it was what fit him. “It was what God intended me to do,” he explained. When he graduated high school, he went to school studying computer engineering, and then he switched to accounting, but there was always a piece missing. The girl he was dating at the time went on church retreats, and she persuaded him to go and help out. “I was originally supposed to help out at the table for our group,” he said “But someone got sick and threw the paperwork at me asking if I could do the readings.” once he started, it clicked. “I thought to myself, “Oh this is where I fit.’” And he knew that he could do that for the rest of his life. “There is still a satisfaction to it. And it will be there for the rest of my life.”

The people in our parish and other parishes have helped him grow. He’s made friends in past parishes who have told him when he did something wrong, or things that he could do better. “There are some things that I did in Parish A, that I didn’t do in Parish B. And that helped me improve,” he said. People have told him to try something different or to change things up a bit and to do things out of his comfort zone with the church that have proven to be a success. “ Being friends with some of the parishioners has also helped that.” Sometimes they put him in positions that he would never find himself in, and way out of his comfort zone which has helped him become more easy going and relaxed. “Every person that I have met in my life as a priest has helped me grow in some way. As a priest, and as a human being.”

An “average” priest would be perceived as quiet, reserved, and often spends their time reading religious books or something along those lines. You wouldn’t think that a priest would love to read vampire novels or spend most of his spare time cooking and experiment with different kitchen utensils. Even though he has different hobbies than the other priests, he puts his heart and soul into his work and he is content with where he is today.

“When God has his plan for all us, we’re really not happy until we’re actually in that place we are supposed to be,” he said, “There is still a very good satisfaction, and that will last forever I think. It’s the right place and it’s where God wanted me to be, whether or not I knew it at the beginning.”