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My Call to the Priesthood

It has been a long journey to get to this beautiful day where I can celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass here in St. Vincent de Paul as a priest! This long journey started when I began altar serving in fourth grade, and as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in high school, serving the community in a small way at Mass. I was disposed to serve God this way because of the example of service that my parents shared.

 Even though I was taking my faith seriously in high school and was attending retreats like CHRISTpower and TEC (Teens Encounter Christ), I did not know enough about seminary for it to be an option after high school. So, I went to college at Iowa State University, starting in Ag. Engineering and planning to minor in Spanish in the fall of 2011. I was active in several student organizations on campus as well with the Knights of Columbus, Small Groups, and music ministry at the parish. After about three years I found Engineering was not a good fit, dropped the Spanish minor and joined the Priesthood Discernment Group headed by the pastor of the parish near campus.

In this group, and by the example of the pastor, I found that priests do more than just say Mass, visit the hospital, and live in the rectory. I also learned that discernment is a journey of asking God, “what do you want for me?”  This can be asked with the Church through a spiritual director, seminary formators, or novitiate program for religious men and women. Further, I learned that entering seminary is not “signing on the line” that you must be a priest, but a place where you are able to continue asking God His plan for your life with the help of others in an environment of prayer and support. I came to understand these things through articles, retreats, and a seminary visit within the discernment group. I was in the discernment about three years. I completed my degree in Agricultural Systems Technology in December of 2016, but before I graduated, I knew I needed to keep asking God His plan for my life and was planning to apply for seminary.

I was able to visit Conception Seminary College (CSC) sometime in 2014 with a few high schoolers headed up by our own Fr. Joe. At that time, I was a bit confused why a place in the middle of nowhere (9 miles from a gas station and twenty from a Wal-Mart or McDonald’s), with a bunch of monks, and only a few lay professors was a good place to form future priests. Demographically, it was nothing like your typical parish with a variety of people. However, when I went back for a visit in the spring of 2017, I had matured enough to understand that a peaceful and prayerful place to be with God and others who are asking the same questions and striving to grow in holiness is a wonderful place for discernment. 

I was accepted as a seminarian and started at CSC in the fall of 2017. It only took a few days to find out that the seminarians there were normal guys. They liked to play soccer, race Mario Kart, and play an occasional prank or two. I needed that shift from ISU’s busy campus of 36,000 to the calm and prayerful family feel of the sixty men at CSC. I was challenged and grew so much as a person over those two years of Pre-Theology. I started at Kenrick in St. Louis in the fall of 2019, but by the end of that semester I was feeling the fatigue of academics, having taken classes 14 of 15 semesters, so I was able to take a parish internship at Lourdes in Columbia in the spring of 2020. That was an experience of a parish amidst a crisis. Once things shut down, I was able to help with the livestreamed Masses and really see what the priority of the parish is – keeping people connected to Christ. This was a challenge during that time. I was also able to get a spiritual boost by attending a 30-day Ignatian retreat summer of 2020.

Bishop McKnight was wanting to send men back to the Pontifical College Josephinum (PCJ) in Columbus, OH for formation, so I started there in the fall of 2020. Like CSC, it was a smaller family feel with great fraternity and wonderful formators and professors. I was there for the last four years. I completed the academic program with a Master of Divinity, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology, and a Certificate in Hispanic Ministry.

Having said all this, priestly ordination, an amazing gift and huge step, is just the beginning of the next chapter of my life. I am still growing, learning, and being drawn more to give God my daily “yes”. I do not know everything, I am still a sinner, and I still like to play Mario Kart, but as a priest I am called to bring Jesus into every situation I encounter. I am called to lay down my life for my sheep and bring Jesus to others and others to Jesus. 

I would like to thank my biological, parish, and school families for the support and prayers over the years and all those who formed me spiritually, humanly, pastorally, and academically. Prayers from many people, some I will never know, have helped strengthen me along this difficult journey. Please continue to pray for me, for all those in formation for Holy Matrimony, the Priesthood, and for Religious Life, and encourage young people to trust God’s call in their life. Know that you all remain in my prayers!