Monsignor Clay wins lifetime achievement award

Monsignor Michael Clay, a diocesan priest and an internationally recognized authority on the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, was honored Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C.

The monsignor received the 2019 Alumnus Lifetime Service Award from Theological College, which is affiliated with the Catholic University of America. Before becoming a priest, he studied at both Catholic University and Theological College, which he graduated from in 1980.

He was ordained to the priesthood Nov. 15, 1980, in his hometown of New Bern by Bishop Joseph Gossman.

On the parish level, he served as pastor at St. Thomas More Church in Chapel Hill, as well as St. Peter Church in Greenville and St. Ann Church in Clayton. He served as vice rector at Sacred Heart [then] Cathedral from 1980 – 1983. He also served the diocese as director of the offices of vocations, liturgy and the permanent diaconate.

Many in the diocese may recognize him as the voice of the dedication of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, which he narrated July 26, 2017, via a live stream that was viewed by more than 1,000 people.

At present he is associate dean for graduate ministerial studies and associate professor of practice in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America.

Father McBrearity, P.S.S., rector of Theological College, shared remarks at the recognition event.

“The spiritual writer, Thomas Merton wrote, ‘The saint preaches sermons by the way he walks, the way he stands, the way he sits down, the way he picks things up and the way he holds them in his hand,’” Father McBrearity said. “Such a description of holiness brings home the ordinary, the hidden, the boring, the routine, the personal, the difficult but fundamental dimension of authentic discipleship. What we celebrate this evening is the fact that Michael Clay deserves this Alumnus Lifetime Service Award because he has demonstrated time and again throughout his life as a priest that he has committed himself to a life of authentic discipleship.”

When he reflects on his time at Theological College, Monsignor Clay remembers the intellectual depth of the faculty and their genuine interest in students. 

In his remarks during the award presentation, Monsignor Clay thanked the seminary committee, his parents, his siblings and Bishop Gossman. 

"All of us live life in a fuller way when we have a compelling vision to motivate us," he said. "That vision will be different from person to person, but having one is of vital importance. Service to the Gospel is what compels me. It was shaped in my home, my church community, in seminary formation, many years of priestly ministry, and continues to be refined to this day."