Just as Jesus invited Simon and Andrew to leave their fishing nets to become fishers of men, he seems to be conveying a similar message to Bernadette and Jerry Strand, Dousman residents and members of St. Bruno Parish.
On Saturday, June 4, their second son, Vincent, was ordained a Jesuit priest at Gesu Church, Milwaukee.
With the ordination of Fr. (Vincent) Vince, the family has the rare experience of having three brothers from the same answering the call to priesthood. Two other Strand brothers, Fr. Luke and Fr. Jacob, are priests of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Though Bernadette and Jerry Strand say they were astounded all three of their boys answered the call to priesthood, they attribute their vocations to raising their children in a faith-filled home, and surrounding them with good examples in their grandparents, extended family, priests, school and parish community.
“They were always involved as servers in Mass and all other liturgies that followed the church calendar,” said Jerry. “This is an exciting time for our family and we are so excited for Vince’s ordination and his Mass of Thanksgiving at our parish.”
First felt call during college
According to his parents, Fr. Vince was a student at Marquette University when told them he felt called to religious life and planned to pray about it and see where the Lord was leading him.
“Luke, 35; Vince, 33, and Jacob 30, just like their birth order, shared their callings to the priesthood. As each shared their calling to serve our Lord and the church, we felt a great sacrifice in giving up daughters-in-law and grandchildren, but as time has gone by and we see the fruits of their callings, we are extremely proud and at peace to give our sons and our own initial desires back to God. They were a gift to begin with,” said Bernadette.
The couple also has a 27-year-old daughter, Theresa Krausert. She and her husband, Christopher, became parents to Colette Elise on Mother’s Day.
Fr. Vince recalled discerning the call to religious life as a college freshman and began devoting more time to prayer, attending daily Mass and making a regular confession.
“It was also important for me to come to know the many Jesuits at Marquette University as living examples of the life to which I was feeling called,” he said. “As to why God called me to be a religious and a priest, this question and why he created me and why he called us into communion with him are all questions that place us before the great mystery that God is. The answer can only be found in his great love for us.”
Never considered diocesan priesthood
While his brothers felt the tug to become diocesan priests, Fr. Vince said he always felt God was calling him to be a Jesuit and never seriously considered the diocesan priesthood.
“I always felt a more fundamental call to religious life and to following the Lord with vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I was also attracted to being part of a religious order that had a spiritual tradition and history,” he explained. “Many things attracted me particularly to the Society of Jesus: the universal dimension of their mission as opposed to just one geographic area, their commitment to the intellectual life and study, their special relationship with the Holy Father, but perhaps most especially is the end for which the Society of Jesus was founded, which is put succinctly in one of our foundational documents as ‘the defense and propagation of the faith.’”
Jesuit Fr. Ron Bieganowski, a professor, met Fr. Vince when he taught him sophomore English at Marquette University.
“He was such a high quality of person in his academic work, in his reading American literature, in readiness to join class discussion with careful, intelligent, articulate, substantive analyses and observations,” said Fr. Bieganowski, who also taught him in an upper level English course.
While the priest said he hasn’t had much contact with Fr. Vince recently, he said he has admired him and encouraged him from the sidelines.
Triple vocation is ‘mystery’
Attributing the triple vocation to God’s grace, Fr. Vince explained it is a mystery God called all three brothers.
“A vocation to the priesthood is a supernatural calling, and so it can only be explained ultimately in terms of grace,” he said. “But why us? The answer is, ‘I really don’t know.’ When Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and called the pairs of brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John, I am sure there were other fishermen there that he could have called. Why did he call these specific men? Could Peter or John have explained it? I imagine it was a mystery for them, just as it is a mystery for me.”
Calling Fr. Vince’s ordination, a joy for their family and the church, Fr. Luke Strand, vocations director for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said his brother is an intellectually gifted man who will assist the church in explaining faith in the complicated times in which we live.
“Vince is a committed religious with a deep love for the Society of Jesus and St. Ignatius. As a Jesuit, Vince could be missioned anywhere in the world. He is planning on being in Milwaukee for about a month, but that is likely the longest that the three of us will be in the same city,” he said.
Fr. Luke said each of the brother’s call to priesthood was unique and that everyone’s vocation is unique.
“My hope is that young Catholics will take seriously the discernment of their call and that all young men will pray about the priesthood as a potential invitation from our Lord. Jesus called each of us to the priesthood; we were listening. Many are being called and, sadly, are not responding or not disposing themselves to hear God’s call,” he said.
Surrounded by positive influences
Fr. Jacob Strand, associate pastor of St. Monica, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene, Fox Point, noted the siblings were blessed to have positive influences in their lives.
“We always had many people praying for us, especially an aunt who is a cloistered Poor Clare nun,” he said. “We also were blessed to be raised in a very loving family with generous parents, who sacrificed many things for us. Our supportive parish was another key influence. Finally, I would say that we each had several people who really inspired us through the holiness of their lives.”
Fr. Jacob described Fr. Vince as relatable to others and believes he will excel in pastoral settings.
“He has a desire to surrender his entire life as a Jesuit for the sake of Christ’s Bride, the church,” he explained. “One of his most obvious strengths is his intellectual aptitude and his penetrating perspective of reality. But he’s not just a smart guy, he can also teach clearly difficult philosophical and theological concepts.”
Throughout his Jesuit novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota, Fr. Vince worked with street kids in South America, immigrants in the Bronx, youth behind bars in a detention center and persons with disabilities.
“But the key ministerial experience during my years of formation was the three years I spent at Creighton Preparatory School, an all-boys Jesuit high school in Omaha, where I taught theology and philosophy, coached basketball and academic decathlon, led retreats and otherwise was present in any way I could to minister to the students there,” he explained.
Fr. Vince described the central challenge in religious life as constant among his various assignments.
“It is the simple challenge of letting God’s grace be ever more active in my life, which could be expressed otherwise as learning to grow in love of God and others, of surrendering ever more deeply to my own self-will and interests so as to love God more freely,” he said.
Fr. Vince said he recognizes the call to the priesthood is a sacrifice, but explained the pattern of Christian life, that is, the cross, teaches us what self-gift looks like.
He said he finds this particularly for the priest. His ordination holy card contains a quotation from Pope Benedict XVI: “The cross reveals that we find ourselves only by giving our lives away, receiving God’s love as an unmerited gift and working to draw all men and women into the beauty of that love and the light of the truth which alone brings salvation to the world.”
“I believe those words in my heart of hearts, because I have experienced that dynamic,” said Fr. Vince. “I think most people have; we know that when we are generous, when we give of ourselves, when we love more deeply, we are filled with a joy that does not come to us when we are looking out firstly for our own self-interests. A great lie of our culture is to think that joy and sacrifice cannot coexist. Jesus teaches us the exact opposite; true joy is found only in sacrifice.”
After spending a few weeks in the Milwaukee area, Fr. Vince will continue his studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.