We invite readers to send short stories about the ways in which their lives have been personally blessed by the life and work of priests and religious in our diocese.
By Karina Fabian
Although Father Michael Driscoll has spent 14 years of his priesthood as a professor at Notre Dame University in Indiana, he represents one of the unique aspects of the Helena Diocese – its ability to produce diocesan priests who are scholars as well.
Born in Butte in 1951, he graduated from Boys’ Central (the last class before the school changed to Butte Central), and attended Carroll College. He said that being around priests who were also teachers at Carroll influenced him greatly. During his junior year he studied in Florence, at which time he made the definitive decision to go into the seminary. “When I came back, I went straight to Bishop Hunthausen and told him I wanted to become a priest. Since he knew I’d been in Italy, he asked if I’d like to attend seminary in Rome. I gave it about 26 seconds of serious consideration before saying, ‘Yes!’ ”
He went to the Pontifical Gregorian University run by the Jesuits, concentrating on the academic and teaching side of the seminary curriculum and was ordained in 1977.
When he returned to Montana, Bishop Curtiss sent him to St. Anthony’s in Missoula to gain practical experience in pastoral ministry before allowing him to return to Rome to finish an advanced degree. In 1980, he received his licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Benedictine-run San Anselmo with a specialization in sacramental theology.
From there, he returned to Helena to begin his teaching career at Carroll College. The first year, he said, was difficult, as he raced from teaching one class to developing the next day’s. His second year, he was able to build on the lessons of his first.
He hoped to have a third year of teaching experience before going on for doctoral studies, but that was not to be. He was told that the department was currently strong so he should plan to go elsewhere while he could and that the college could not guarantee the offer would be good the next year.
Therefore, it was back to Europe to the University of Paris-Sorbonne and the Institut Catholique, where he earned doctorates in religious studies and theology with a specialization in liturgy and sacramental theology.
Returning to Carroll in 1986, he resumed teaching – theology and music appreciation. He also directed the cathedral choir and the liturgical choir at Carroll. Music has always been a part of his life; even as a child, he sang in the children’s choir. He also led the campus ministry for a year.
In the summers beginning in 1987 he taught graduate courses in theology, first at Seton Hall University for three consecutive summers, then at the University of Notre Dame every other summer beginning in 1990. In 1994, he was invited to join the Notre Dame faculty. Since then, he has been teaching sacramental theology and liturgy.
Four years ago, he founded the master’s program in Sacred Music at Notre Dame, joining his liturgical studies with his musical interests. He also directs the program. In addition, he consults with the liturgical commissions for the Helena Diocese and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and travels extensively giving talks on liturgical topics.
Father Driscoll believes that his teaching and his priesthood support each other. “My studies contribute directly to my understanding of pastoral ministry, and since I’m teaching divinity students, both seminarians and lay ecclesial ministers, what I teach has a direct effect on the Church.”
As a tenured professor, he plans to continue teaching at Notre Dame, but he has no doubts that when he retires, he will return to Montana and the diocese. “I still think of Montana as home,” he said.
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 25, No. 4, April 17, 2009.