This month we get to know Father Joe Vogel. He was ordained on May 29, 1987, and is currently the pastor at St. Joseph, Elk Point, St. Peter, Jefferson, and St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dakota Dunes. He grew up on a farm in northeastern South Dakota between Turton and Doland. He has seven brothers and sisters and 26 nieces and nephews. His mother is one of 10 and his father is one of eight, which means he has lots of cousins. That’s quite all right with Father Vogel because family has been everything to him
Q. Tell us a bit about your family and where you grew up.
I grew up on a farm in northeastern South Dakota between the big cities of Turton and Doland. I have seven brothers and sisters and 26 nieces and nephews. My mother is one of 10 and my father is one of eight, so I have a lot of first cousins. Throughout my life family has been everything to me.
Q. How did you get your call to the priesthood?
My first thought of the priesthood was not until I was 28 years old. I grew up in a very close, Catholic family, and we never missed Mass or any church activity.
After college at SDSU, I joined the Air Force and became a security police officer for 8 1/2 years, traveling all over the world. I was once engaged to be married and always assumed I would be married and have several children.
For two or three years during my time in the Air Force, I was not attending church very much and wasn’t behaving like a good little Catholic boy. Along the way a religious sister taught me to pray and essentially how to listen to God. She recommended that for 30 days I should ask this question and be quiet for 10 minutes: “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” Much to my surprise, after three or four weeks the thought of priesthood came up. God’s ways are certainly not our ways.
Q. Is there a particular part of Catholicism that really fascinates you? (liturgy, history, spirituality)
I’ve always been drawn to learning, living and teaching about the spiritual life. I would say that along the way the greatest gift I’ve ever received in the spiritual life is to know without a doubt I am loved by God, even though I am a sinner. I would also say that God has blessed me that I know another gift I received is to love people where they are. That always makes life a lot easier.
Q. Who was most influential in your life?
My parents, my family and some awesome friends. There have also been many priest mentors who have guided me along the way.
Q. What’s your favorite part of being a priest?
Being a pastor and working with youth. I’ve always been drawn to the sacrament of reconciliation. I’ve been gifted with God’s incredible mercy, and it’s always a joy to pass it on. I’ve always enjoyed presiding at Mass and in some different ways presiding at daily Mass. The pace of daily Mass is slower and people want to be there. More people should attend daily Mass and find out what I mean.
Q. What’s the most challenging thing?
How to love people well who don’t practice their faith anymore. It’s always good for me to remember those who loved me when I wasn’t active in the Church. I’ll never forget those who never gave up on me.
Q. What did you do before the priesthood? (other jobs, college major, etc.)
When I was young, I wanted to be a farmer. In college I majored in engineering but knew after a year that wasn’t for me. I majored in sociology, which is the study of groups of people. I always assumed I would be married with many children because of the incredible loving family I grew up in all my life.
Q. Who is your go-to saint? Why?
Saint Joseph. I love his quiet, confident power and his ability to trust God in all ways. He would be the person I want to be by in a storm or a tragedy. I believe he would always know what to do and how to do it with great trust in God.
Q. What do you do in your spare time?
Hang around great friends and family. Sit in church, sit by the river or in the mountains and think about all the blessings I have received in my life. Ride bikes, get exercise and have too much time to have a good meal with people of God.
Q. What is something most people don’t know about you?
I was incredibly shy and nervous as a child. Giving a talk in speech class always made me very nervous. I really enjoyed my time in the Air Force traveling all over the world. After five years in seven, I knew I could live in South Dakota for the rest of my life and that would be awesome. The older I get the easier it is to say no.
Q. How can your parishioners best help you become a better priest?
Be involved. Join a Bible study or another class and share your faith with others. Be very generous, not because we need it in the church but because that’s the path to holiness and joy.
Q. If you could have supper with anyone from history (besides Jesus), who would it be and why?
St. Joseph, the Blessed Mother, St. Francis and St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers. They made being holy look easy no matter their struggles.