Give Us Shepherds

The priesthood is something of a family legacy for you — you had four family members who were priests?

Growing up, I had great examples of the vocation to the priesthood through my great uncles — Frs. Gerard, George, Raymond and John. My dad actually helped to build a log cabin on the Budde farm for my great uncles so that they could be together on their day off each week. There were eight boys in the family and two girls, and four of the boys became priests.

Did you know them personally, or just their story?

I did not know them well — Gerard and George were ordained in the 1930s and Raymond and John were ordained in the 1940s. But I heard a lot about them from my grandparents and their history has always been a part of my life. The one thing I’ve always found interesting is that two of them served together for several years, in the same parish in Hartford.

Looking at your priesthood so far, are there any moments that really stick out to you in your memory as special, or as opportunities for you to really live out your vocation?

I had the opportunity to bring two parish communities together in Fredonia and Belgium. Seeing that merger — with all of its challenges and blessings — was a special moment for me. It was a great deal of work, but the end result was better than we could have imagined.

What’s the secret to a good parish merger?

Many times mergers don’t seem to go off well, but I think a good thing was that a lot of the parishioners from both the churches, both in Fredonia and Belgium, a lot of them had family members that were close to each other. Being farmers, they had to work with each other, so there was that kind of connectivity and rural aspect that helped it go so well.

What is something that you think people don’t realize about priests, or the lives of priests?

For me, I strive to be balanced in my life overall. I like time with friends and family, and enjoy laughter and levity just as much (if not more) than others. There is much to be learned from others who are not called to the priesthood, and I try to remain open to that wisdom and insight as well.

What is your favorite topic to preach on?

I think Jesus’ parables strive to present lessons to all of us that are still relevant today. Because I feel like my homilies are often a “call to action” or a challenge for the week ahead, the parables are a great place for me to draw from.

This issue celebrates 175 years of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary — what advice would you give to young or newly ordained priests today who have just left seminary?

As a new priest, I was very ready for the things I had trained for, but life throws curveballs and then priests are called to a new challenge. I would say it is important to be open-minded and flexible.

You’re a history major and still have a great interest in history — what drew you to the study of that?

When I was young, I always was fascinated by history, especially U.S. History — I love reading about the early presidents and how they helped to form the United States. That was fascinating to me, how the nation grew from them.

Would that be your favorite period — Early American?

Early American, but throughout the years, too — I like learning about the Civil War and how we grew from there — or how we could have grown better. But we learn from our history.

We’re at this strange moment in our culture today where people are struggling with elements of our history. As a student of history, what are your thoughts on that?

That’s a hard thing, because of course there were aspects of our Founding Fathers that (are not admirable) — most of them were slave owners, for instance. It’s hard, really, because you can’t say we have to erase every single person from the history books. I think there has to be some kind of middle ground and some kind of balance. Nobody’s perfect, and we can learn from them. If we erase history, how do we learn?

You’re a coffee fan — where is your favorite place to get a cup?

I am boring; it is just Panera coffee for me. And my coffee needs much more creamers and sweetener than coffee to be tasty.

What do you hope God says to you when you get to heaven?

A cute joke I once read said that a priest who finally made it to heaven greeted God and God’s first comment was “Welcome Father; you’ve finally made it to a gated community.” In reality, I don’t know that God would need to say much of anything — I would be happy in the silence.