Msgr. Clay is a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, ordained in 1980.
He has served his diocese as parochial vicar (Sacred Heart Cathedral, 1980-1983), pastor (St. Peter in Greenville (1983-1987), St. Thomas More in Chapel Hill (1995-1999), and St. Ann in Clayton (2007-2012)), diocesan director of liturgy (1987-1989), diocesan vocation director (1987-1989, 1999-2007) and diocesan director of the permanent diaconate (2004-2008). In addition, he served as administrative secretary for Bishop Michael Burbidge (2006-2007) and as legislative liaison and lobbyist for the two Catholic bishops of North Carolina to the state General Assembly (2007-2009). For six years (1989-1995) he served on the formation faculty of Theological College at The Catholic University of America.
Previously he was Associate Adjunct Professor at St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN in its Institute for Pastoral Ministries program (2000-2007). He has served as a member and chair of the Diocesan Council of Priests (1984-1989, 2007-2012) and Clergy Personnel Board (1985-1989, 2007-2012). On the national level, he has also been a member of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (1984-1989) and served on its Board of Directors for two years. During his tenure as vocation director he was a member of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.
For 25 years he has been an internationally recognized authority on the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and has spoken on the rite and other liturgical areas in over 70 dioceses in the United States and Canada. He is the author of A Harvest for God: Christian Initiation in the Rural and Small-Town Parish published by Liturgy Training Publications and over 12 articles on Christian initiation and liturgy.