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 | Staff Report

What’s His Story? Monsignor Michael Muhr

February 28, 2023 | In the Catholic world we often encounter women and men who have chosen to live radically different lives. Often it can lead us to ask, “what’s their story?” In this series we are honored to share the stories of priests and religious in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. We are grateful to Spirit FM for sharing these conversations with us from their “Father Friday series.” Do you think you know what priesthood and religious life is all about? You might just be in for a few surprises.

Msgr. Michael Muhr currently serves as pastor at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in South Side Chicago,  so I'm a diehard White Sox fan. It’s in my bones!  I lived in Chicago for 13 years until my dad received a job promotion that brought us to Florida. I attended Catholic schools in Chicago, but switched to public schools when we came here, so I had a taste of both.  

How many kids are in your family?

I have one brother and one sister; I am the oldest. We are all very close and I couldn’t ask for a better brother and sister.

Why did you want to become a priest?

The story goes back to when I was in Faith Formation which in the old days was called CCD. While in high school many of the Tampa parishes decided to centralize our classes. They had us come from all over the city on Wednesday nights to Tampa Catholic High School. That was providential for me as it was my faith formation teacher in 10th grade that had a huge influence on my vocation. I so wish I could find him today to thank him. Back in those days, I was so shy I would never raise my hand or speak out.

One night he asked our class, “How do you get to Heaven?” Having gone to Catholic school, I knew the answer was the Ten Commandments. Stay away from these bad things and you slide right in. He then said, "Well, you know, that’s not what Jesus says." I was shocked!  He then put L-O-V-E on the board, and he said that we are called to love; we all have a vocation. He talked about his life and how his vocation was to be married and help others as a lawyer.

I left class that night with an urgency to discover my vocation.  I spent weeks searching my mind, trying to figure it out.  I was so frustrated and exhausted until I remembered that somebody once told me that your vocation is whatever would make you happiest in life. So, I asked myself, “What would make me happiest?

The way I phrased my answer back then was “I want to help people get to Heaven.” So, I started thinking of ways I could do that like being a social worker. I could help people find housing and maybe  once in awhile sneak in God. Then all of a sudden, the realization came to me - that’s what the priest does ALL the time. I remember frantically pacing my backyard because I was terrified by the idea of becoming a priest. That began the long journey of the Lord bringing me out of my deep feelings of inferiority and finally giving  me the confidence to say yes. 

How long have you been a priest?

I have been a priest 39 years. It’s unbelievable as it doesn’t feel like 39 years at all! 

Who is your favorite fictional captain or leader, and why?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship  Enterprise in  Star Trek, Next Generation. No matter what problems I was dealing with at the parish, every Wednesday night, I could help Picard save the Universe! It was so therapeutic! 

I admire his style of leadership. He would listen carefully to his crew, and they all knew he had their backs. I loved when someone would walk in and complain, and he would simply say, “Noted” and they would walk out!!! They knew, however, that he would think about what they said, and by the end of the episode, he was applying their input to save the day.

What is your favorite part about being a priest?

You know, obviously celebrating Mass is the greatest privilege. I also love what happens in confession; the dramatic conversions that occur. Sometimes after a penance service I think, if I die tonight, my life was worth it. Just being there when Jesus changes someone’s life, and I see them walk out with a freedom they probably haven’t had in years is so exhilarating!

But I’d say overall, the thing I love the most is working with my staff. I enjoy helping people grow. My chosen patron is St. Barnabas whose name means, “son of encouragement,” and that’s exactly what he gave to the Gentiles of Antioch when he saw how they were filled with the Holy Spirit. He also stuck up for Paul when most everyone did not believe that his conversion was sincere.

I heard you have a podcast; can you tell us a little about your podcast?

It’s called Seeds of Hope and it’s a collection of homilies and retreat talks. So many people touch our lives and inspire us. I try through these episodes to share those stories and how we’re all called to live the Gospel of Jesus every day. 

You can find the podcast by clicking on this link.

This interview with Msgr. Muhr originally aired on the Spirit FM 90.5 Morning Show during Father Fridays.