For the Salvation of Souls

Fr. Sylvester Willoughby, O.P. has been preaching for the salvation of souls for over sixty years. In this video, he testifies to the charismatic nature of preaching, recalling the providentially good effect of something he would have rather not said. Fr. Willoughby is presently assigned to the Dominican House of Studies (Washington, D.C.), actively engaged in full-time pastoral ministry. He is shown with his classmates in the ordination class of ’49 picture at the bottom of this page, taken in Washington, D.C. on June 9, 1949.

Fr. Willoughby’s Profile at the Dominican House of Studies:

The average age of the men assigned to the Dominican House of Studies is very low in comparison with most of the priories in the province of St. Joseph. This is the result of so many young men in simple vows and solemn vows who are under 33. However there are some older priests assigned here. The provincial sent a letter to all those over 65 reminding them that Dominicans do not retire. To compute the oldest in a religious order the calendar is not used, rather the seniority system is in vogue. This is somewhat like the military but not as hard fast. The “oldest in religion” is Fr. Malcolm Sylvester Willoughby. He entered the order in 1942–the month he turned 21. Do the math. What does an 85 year old do? As much as he can do, all things considered. Those who teach and those who attend class are not very free during the week. And there are calls for priests all week long. For example, the National Shrine across the street needs confessors every day of the week. At least five hours of confessions are heard each day at staggered hours with more than one priest hearing. Dominicans have slated hours there plus answering emergency calls for confessors when bus loads of pilgrims arrive, especially in the tourist season. Masses on week days are scattered throughout the week. To mention a few we cover on a regular basis: Little Sisters of the Poor, Newman Club at George Washington, the Pentagon, Fort Meade, assorted convents of sisters, Christian Brothers and the many convents of the Missionaries of Charity. Not to mention Malta house and more. We are speaking of weekdays. During Lent and Advent there are many requests for priests to help with penance services at various churches in D.C. plus Maryland and Virginia. Sometimes we send 10 priests for large penance services.

There are frequent pleas for help with masses or confessions on an emergency basis. When someone comes to front desk asking for a priest there are enough active priests to serve. There are also phone requests to talk to a priest. Since we are not a house that has much income we cannot serve those in need of money or food. We are a subsidized house. Still, to be able to supply priests for Mass and/or Confessions is a service not available in many areas. Fr. Willoughby estimates that he has celebrated over 29,000 Masses in his year as a priest.