Deacon Jeremy Hammond – who along with seven other men will be ordained priests of the Archdiocese of Washington on June 20 – anticipates that “seeing God transform lives” will be his greatest joy as a priest.

“I’ve experienced it, and seeing others experience the same gives an immense joy,” the 27-year-old New Jersey native said. “To see the ways by which God rescues people from despair is simply astounding, and I hope to see that more and more even as things seem to get worse and worse.”

Deacon Hammond said that his openness to a priestly vocation was fostered by “a deep gratitude toward God for His restoring happiness to my life.” He said prior to that, he was “not yet a teenager when despair and depression became the accepted norm for me.”

His transformation came from his association with the Neocatechumenal Way, a 56-year-old Catholic movement founded in Spain and dedicated to adult and family faith formation. 

“Through the Neocatechumenal Way – during a time when I did not even hope for change – joy came back into my life through no special effort of my own,” he said, adding that God “saved me from depression and anxiety.” 

An estimated 1.5 million Catholics belong to the Neocatechumenal Way in about 40,000 parish-based groups worldwide. “The Neocatechumenal Way saved my life. I was surrounded with people who worked to give me their best and show me love,” Deacon Hammond said. “God Himself intervened to show my family and me a new way, one of faith and full of hope.”

Often simply called the Way, the movement has also established more than 100 Redemptoris Mater diocesan mission seminaries around the world, including one in Hyattsville, Maryland, for the Archdiocese of Washington. That is the seminary Deacon Hammond attended.

He said when he attended World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia in 2008, he heard a Neocatechumenal Way talk about vocations to priesthood and “something totally unexpected began to stir within me. Through the help of countless brothers and sisters, here I am today.”

“The Way is how God saw fit to bring me into a living experience of His Church,” he added.

One of four brothers raised by a single mother, Deacon Hammond was a fencer in high school. He plays the B-flat and bass clarinets and the tenor saxophone. His interests include musical composition, creative writing and reading, especially about theology, Cold War-era history, biographies and ecclesiastical art.

Preparing for the priesthood during a worldwide coronavirus outbreak, Deacon Hammond said, “has taught me that the priesthood and the sacraments are essential. My vocation, then, is essential.”

“There are concrete persons with very real sufferings for whom God has prepared me as a servant to share with them both Word and sacrament. The chaos of COVID-19 makes clear that priests are ordained for everyone, for the universal Church and for all whom God has elected,” he said. “The pandemic has shown me that a priest must now go out to meet his people, with due prudence and abundant zeal, but always.”

Deacon Hammond said he is anxious to see how and where God will use his priestly vocation. “At Redemptoris Mater, we are formed to be missionary priests, available to serve the universal Church, and I look forward to seeing how God provides the grace for me to do so wherever I may be,” he said.