Give Us Shepherds

You’ve just been assigned to a new parish. What do you want your new parishioners to know about you?

I’ve been helping out in this community through much of the winter. And because I taught at our high school here in town years ago, I already knew a surprisingly large number of folks. And so, coming in is very different than when I’ve gone to a parish that I’ve never been around before. Getting to know me now is probably just trying to catch up with some of the additional experiences I’ve had since I was a teacher here in Mount Calvary.

Can you tell us about how you discerned your call to the priesthood?

Initially, it was to be a Capuchin brother. A lot of my initial call was to do work in some kind of spiritual formation, which is what I was seeing the friars do at the retreat house during my teenage years. I think that was a big thing for me was to actually have a life that included ministry and the prayer component as well. So, I was really drawn first to the community. And then, over the years, realized I had most of the basic skills to also function as a priest.

What did your parents do to help water the seeds of your (and your sister’s) vocations?

I think it was because they both came from very church-oriented families themselves. I had cousins who had been in seminary. Dad had uncles who were priests. My mom came from a very traditional Eastern European Catholic background. I think it was because they came from lifestyles that integrated church as well. Growing up, even 60 years ago when I was born, the process of going to church or not in my hometown was never a question. Of course, everybody went to church. (It was a) tight-knit, German, Catholic community. By the time I got to college age, I realized that maybe half of my age group no longer attended Sunday Mass on a regular basis. And that obviously has continued then over the decades. So now people ask, do you go to church or not? But when I was growing up, of course, you did. Do you learn how to read when you’re growing up? You go to church. It was the same thing.

What is your favorite part of your ministry?

I’ve always been fond of Sunday mornings. I know that sounds a little generic, but when the community literally gathers for prayer is when I feel, I think, the most enlivened by being a parish priest. It is that time that people are literally identifying as people of faith by being in church, first of all, but also by the way they interact with one another. And it’s also the time, I think, when people genuinely slow down a little bit and take in that presence of God, as well as trying to witness to others. So, the gathering of the community on Sunday is a big thing for me.

Who is someone whose example of a lived faith has stayed with you?

Br. Cyrus Toschik, OFM Capuchin, who died several years ago, a lay brother who spent his younger years teaching other candidates how to be brothers. He was a skilled cook and tailor and did all kinds of traditional roles. He was just plain, a prayerful guy, and I had the luxury of living and working with him very early on in my training and just kept following his example.”

What would you say to anyone currently discerning a vocation to religious life or the priesthood?

I would say keep practicing, learn how to take the time, whatever it takes, to learn how to listen to yourself and how God is inside of you, not just around you.

What is the best way for your parish — and anyone reading — to pray for you in your vocation? Any special intentions or intercessors we should keep in mind?

What I do pray for, for other people, is that they would find their way of living out their baptism. The top 50 saints in the Catholic tradition provide 50 different ways to live out your baptism. But I think people forget that what we need in the world today is the question that has to be addressed every day. In fact, at Mass this morning, I concluded the general intercessions with just a simple invocation that we would grow closer to God today in the midst of everything.