I grew up in Galesburg, Illinois, in a strong Catholic Croatian immigrant family. As early as four years old I had my first thoughts of priesthood. At that age, I was so attracted to the Eucharist, I would wake my mother to a cup of coffee, and we would walk to church for daily Mass.
Because my life was enriched by and in harmony with Jesus, I yearned to be a priest someday. All through high school I was active in parish life. But in my college years and into my 20s, my life priorities shifted away from the Church.
By my mid-30s I was faced with being a single dad, raising my son, Sean. It was a dark, cold time for me. One night, alone in the house, I longed for Scripture and the Jesus of my childhood, both for me and for my son. Late that night I checked into a hotel room so that I could get access to a Bible. Two of the passages that I read helped heal me by lifting the terrible millstone of sorrow and anger off my shoulder.
Soon after, Sean and I went to Mass at our new parish, St. Joseph in Dexter. After Mass we were welcomed warmly by the pastor, and so began some of the most beautiful years of my life.
Living my Cursillo Weekend in 1990 opened the eyes of my heart. After that, there was no turning back. I felt a calling to the diaconate as I observed the retreat spiritual director, who was a deacon. He helped me and the others discover the riches of our Catholic faith. I yearned to pass that gift on. I spent years studying for the diaconate while working full time as a business executive and helping Faith Magazine in its early years. Finally, on May 14, 2005, I was ordained a deacon.
Up to that point, I hadn’t thought of becoming a priest. In fact I didn’t know there was such a thing as “older vocations.” But I slowly became aware of that option and was accepted in 2007 by Bishop Mengeling and Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, a seminary for older vocations.
In the seminary, my favorite experiences have been my pastoral internships. One year I worked in a large Catholic nursing home. For two years I was assigned to parishes with vibrant youth ministry, and this past summer I worked as summer director at St Francis/Bethany House Retreat Center in Dewitt.
As a priest and spiritual father, I look forward to exploring with my parish family the richness found in scripture and our Catholic tradition. For me there could be no better life than to inspire the laity to be a eucharistic people that fervently love and serve our Lord, family and community.
Growing up, the priesthood was the farthest thing from my mind. Since my father and grandfather were in the military, I imagined I would have a military career as well.
At Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, I was discerning whether to live single or to marry. I started a relationship with a young woman and kept praying about my decision. I soon decided that God wasn’t giving me the grace to be single. Celibacy seemed frightening, and I couldn’t fathom spending the rest of my life without this woman I had come to love.
However, I grew increasingly unsettled. My heart was restless, and it seemed like I was running from God. During an ethics class, Professor Janet Smith was talking about St. Damien of Molokai, who died of leprosy while serving a leper community in Molokai, but not before converting most of the island. Dr. Smith explained that each one of us is made to live for others and sacrifice ourselves in the way Saint Damien did, and that we won’t be truly happy until we do. This struck a chord with me. I realized that God was calling me to celibacy, and that I needed to say yes to him.
Breaking up with my girlfriend was difficult, but when I said yes to the Lord, I had amazing joy, peace, and freedom. I have never regretted the decision. Being a priest is the way God made me to sacrifice for him.
After college, I spent two years with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), an outreach that invites students into a growing relationship with Jesus and the Catholic faith. During the summer break, I lived with Father Ed Fride of Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor for a week. I asked him many questions, especially how I could reconcile being a parish priest with my desire to evangelize. His answers, and just being around him, inspired me, solidified my thinking about becoming a priest, and influenced me to enter Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
I loved seminary. The fraternity among seminarians is outstanding. We all have a singleness of purpose — to follow Jesus as priests, give our lives to the Church, and help people grow in holiness. It was also a time to grow in relationship with the Lord. My favorite classes were on Church history and scripture, and the spirituality of the new evangelization.
As a priest, I look forward to continuing to preach the Gospel and to the joy of saying yes to Jesus. I also look forward to offering the body and blood of Jesus for the sins of the world, and to bring him to others in the Eucharist.
We are like the woman at the well, seeking fulfillment in relationships or via some other means. But our ultimate fulfillment lies only in Christ. Only he can answer our deepest questions and satisfy our human needs.
Unlike many men who become priests, I never had an inclination toward the priesthood when I was young — except to know I didn’t want to be one.
I attended St. Francis of Assisi and Christ the King Parishes in Ann Arbor with my five siblings, and I went to Thomas Aquinas College in California, receiving a liberal arts degree. For nine of the next 11 years I worked for Trader Joe’s in Connecticut, Delaware, and Michigan.
Things changed in 2005 when I went to The Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky with my father for a weekend retreat. I had an experience of God’s love, joy, and peace. My prayer life deepened over the following months and I received significant inner healing.
I had always desired marriage and the intimacy it brings, but for several years my life had been focused on my career. I wanted to make marriage a priority in my life again, but as I prayed I realized I needed to ask God what he wanted for me. Instead of praying to find the right woman, I changed my prayer to ask what was his will, and asked Mary to pray for me.
Soon after, I attended a day of discernment. When I arrived, I sensed Mary saying this was an answer to my prayer. What I learned there helped me overcome my objections and my heart was now open to the priesthood. For the next year or so, I continued discerning. A lunch conversation with Father Jerry Vincke, then the diocesan vocations director, convinced me I should be a seminarian for Lansing, and I had a sense of coming home. I entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 2006.
The call to the priesthood is not about me, but about what he wants to do through me in the lives of others. I may not be a great priest, but I couldn’t say no to the call he is offering. As Saint Paul says, “His power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I can trust that he will work through me and my weakness.
As a priest, I hope to be able to help marriages. That desire developed from reading the freeing, life-giving teaching of John Paul’s Theology of the Body, and from seeing people struggle with their marriages and with sexual sins. I want to see them live a full life in Christ in marriage.
I am excited about being a priest for the people I already know and love in Lansing. I want to help open the Word of God to them, and be an example of the joy that comes from living the life of Christ in the Holy Spirit. Giving the sacraments and praying for them is something I love doing. Please pray for priests and seminarians, as we do for you.