SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
When Fr. Jeff Roedel began college at UW-Milwaukee, he had no thoughts of entering into the priesthood, but as a lifelong Catholic, he quickly became involved at the Newman Center on campus, and his intention to study computer science began to shift.
He’d attended Holy Apostles parish in New Berlin all his life, going to the parish school and later high school at Pius XI.
On Saturday, June 6, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki ordained Fr. Roedel to the Schoenstatt order of priests at his home parish, Holy Apostles in New Berlin, in front of more than 25 members of his family, all overjoyed that gathering restrictions were lifted so they could be there in person.
“I loved my time there,” he said. “But college was the moment where I really got involved in a concrete community of Catholics.”
As his faith began to grow, his vocation was gradually revealed to him through his growing friendship with Fr. Mark Niehaus, who was the campus minister at the time and the first priest that Fr. Roedel had daily contact with.
During the three years he spent at UW-Milwaukee, he saw his faith, and the faith lives of so many friends, blossom because of the care the Schoenstatt father put into helping them grow and accompanying them on the path. “It made me see what an important job the priest plays; it made me see what a beautiful vocation the priesthood truly is.”
Through Schoenstatt spirituality, he discovered the infinite importance of Mary, that she is a sure path to sanctity and to God, and he became close to her and found it easy to pray at her shrine. In daily adoration at the Newman Center, Fr. Roedel sat in the presence of Christ and learned to say yes to whatever God wanted from him. It was there where he first committed his life to the vocation of service in the priesthood.
Drawn not only to Schoenstatt spirituality that’s focused on the Blessed Mother, but to the order’s dedication to the formation of young people, Fr. Roedel entered his novitiate formation in January 2010. Because the Schoenstatt order is community oriented, they try to do their formation in concentrated areas, and only have three or four formation houses around the world.
He spent two years as a novitiate in Paraguay and Argentina working in hospitals, nursing homes and slums. Afterward, he was in Chile for 2 ½ years for university studies, then 1 ½ years in Texas working as an intern with university students, followed by a year in Germany, finally finishing his formation with more than 2 ½ years in Chile.
More than anything, Fr. Roedel says that during his nearly 10 years of study what he learned on his travels is the terrific importance of community and open mindedness.
“Sometimes we confuse what we think we know about the faith with our own personalities. You get out and you live with Latinos and it’s a different mindset completely,” he said. “The important thing is that at the end of the day we should be friends and that’s so Christian because it’s centered on forgiveness; not focused on right and wrong. What matters is each other.”
During his first years as a priest, Fr. Roedel will work at St. Patrick Parish in Whitewater alongside his mentor and the parish administrator, Fr. Niehaus, who said of the newly ordained priest, “It’s a great gift for us as a Church and as a religious community that he’s ordained. Many lives will be changed because of his devotion to Our Lord and our Blessed Mother.”