In addition to serving at the Newman Center at Northern State University in Aberdeen and as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Westport, I am excited to join Father Shaun Haggerty in promoting vocations to the priesthood for our diocese.
Splitting the vocations director position is not unheard of, and we have done it here in Sioux Falls in the past. Father Haggerty and I have been in discussion about how we can work together using our own particular gifts. We will be doing our best to serve our diocese in this role, and we continue to ask everyone for their prayers and encouragement for more good and holy vocations to the priesthood. We all share in this responsibility to foster a culture where young people can hear the ways in which God is calling them to serve.
Some might think promoting the priesthood a daunting task given our current climate both inside the Church and in modern culture. As true as that may be, I come into this additional assignment with great hope because of the facts that still remain; namely, this is Christ’s Church and this is still where I find Jesus. These facts haven’t changed.
The current climate has led me to reflect on the circumstances surrounding my own vocational discernment. Back in 2003 I was a rather reserved high school student who held a mostly private faith in the small town of Eden. Drawing attention to myself, sticking my head out for Jesus, was about the last thing I wanted to do, and deciding to enter seminary was personally challenging because of the public nature of that decision.
In addition to my own internal obstacles, you might remember the national media reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups by priests and bishops coming out of Boston at that time. That type of news was as disheartening then as it is now, and many within the Church were understandably shaken to the core by such reports. Looking at these circumstances it seemed perhaps unreasonable for me to enter the seminary 15 years ago.
But why did I?
Why do young men still decide to go to seminary today?
For me at least it was because of facts. Even with unfavorable circumstances in 2003, I couldn’t deny the facts in front of me. The fact that I desired to follow Christ more closely and felt a draw to the priesthood. The fact that Father Jim Friedrich, knowing nothing of my thoughts on seminary, asked me to visit the seminary. The fact that during that visit in 2002, there was an evident, even palpable peace. The fact that good priests mentored me, and the fact that confession and the Eucharist were still where I found Jesus present in a real and powerful way.
These were undeniable evidences that allowed me to enter seminary with a real confidence even amidst scandal and difficulty.
These evidences remain for me today. I get to see Jesus changing the lives of our students on campus here at NSU, he is working in the parishioners at Westport, and just this August at the seminarian gathering amidst a new outbreak of scandal, I encountered a joy among the seminarians of our diocese that could come from nowhere other than Christ.
I pray we never cease to be people who see Jesus active and present in our midst now. The promotion of vocations, and really, the spreading of Christianity, depends on it. His presence among us now, if we are attentive, becomes the fact that is so undeniable that no matter what obstacles arise or how small our Church might become, is the source of our confidence.
Joyfully, full of hope, we continue to proclaim a living God.
I’m so grateful to be a priest. What a beautiful gift. What a beautiful vocation. Without reservation, I join Father Haggerty in inviting young men to consider the priesthood.
We will be visiting Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, MN November 10-12, 2018 and St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, MN November 15-17, 2018. These are great opportunities for a young man to discover new evidence of a potential call to serve the Lord in this capacity.
May God Bless our diocese with many more good and holy priests.
You can learn more about all the Vocation Office opportunities at www.sfvocations.org.