ARCHDIOCESE OF CHICAGO
MUN-vocationbook.indd 1 12/11/06 11:51:38 AM
Dear Friends of the Seminary,
I n the name of all at the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, St. Joseph
Seminary, Archbishop Quigley Seminary, Casa Jesús, Bishop Abramowicz Seminary, Tuite
House and the In-Search Program, may I extend to you my heartfelt thanks for your constant
prayers and generous support.
This book, Stories of Priesthood, is a collection of the reﬂections of 16
priests on their priesthood and their vocation journeys.
I hope, like me, you will ﬁnd their stories heartwarming and inspi-
rational. As you well know, the stories in this little magazine can be
repeated by so many priests throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago,
including your parish priests.
May these stories of dedication and faithfulness help increase our love
for the priesthood and our priests as they serve us in the name of
Christ Jesus, our brother and friend.
Once again, God bless you for your continuing prayers
and your ﬁnancial support of our seminarians.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Very Reverend Dennis J. Lyle
Rector / President
www.usml.edu 2 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 2 12/11/06 11:51:42 AM
14 Father Matt Foley
An unplanned turn
in the road
Francis Cardinal George, OMI
ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO
16 Father Gene Faucher
Fifty-ﬁve years of
Very Rev. Dennis Lyle, S.T.D
RECTOR/ PRESIDENT MUNDELEIN SEMINARY
University of St. Mary of the 18 Father Gary Graf
“Missionary” at home
OFFICE OF INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT
Mark J. Teresi
20 Father Gerald Gunderson
An ongoing call
22 Father Richard Klajbor
Printed by Mission Press The meaning of
at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls sacramental moments
Sponsored by The Archdiocese of Chicago
Grateful thanks to
Faith Publishing Service 24 Father Miguel Martinez
Devoted to Our Lady
4 Father Bob Heidenreich
From high-school seminary
to a life in the priesthood
26 Father Thomas Mulcrone
A chaplain for ﬁreﬁghters
6 Father Bob Barron
Life as a seminary professor 28 Father Waldemar
A heart for social justice
8 Father Esequiel Sanchez
Spreading the Good News
30 Father Edward Upton
Life as a parish priest
10 Father Ignatius
From Nigeria to Chicago
32 Father Dominic Vin Ha
Expelled from Vietnam –
welcomed in the U.S.
to the priesthood
12 Bishop Gustavo
From priest in Mexico to
34 Father Maina Waithaka
bishop in Chicago
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From high-school seminary to
a life in the priesthood
I have developed very good friends in the
parishes and with other priests. I have
never felt that I led a lonely life. Fifteen of
my fellow priests, who were ordained with
me, built a house together on Lake Michi-
gan. They are still my best friends. We go
to the house on our days off. It is a great
group for giving and receiving support and
wisdom. (Father Ed Upton, page 30, is one
of that group).
I love being a parish priest and pastor,
but I have also had other jobs over the
years. I served as a chaplain in the U.S.
Naval Reserve at Great Lakes Hospital dur-
ather Bob Heidenreich was ing the Vietnam War. One day a week, I
ﬁrst attracted to the priest- took Communion to the guys who had been
hood as a youth by the air-evacuated from the battlefront. So, on
simple act of a number of associate Thursday I found myself talking to soldiers
who had been wounded on Monday.
priests standing outside church on
Sundays after Mass, talking with The formation and continuing education
kids. They struck him as healthy of priests has always interested me. For
men, good role models. eight years, I administered a pastors’ train-
ing program. At one time, I was the dean of
our deanery (II-C), comprising 11 parishes.
I went straight into seminary in high In that position, I had a good view of what
school, and I was ordained in 1969. I tell a pastor does or does not do, and was able
people that it has been both a rewarding life to offer encouragement, information and
and fun. While I don’t know what my life resources to the pastors.
would have been like if I hadn’t become a
priest, I think that the same qualities that I have also worked with Bishop Kane to
make a man a good father and husband also set up a mentoring program for pas-
enable him to be a good priest. tors in our vicariate, and am helping
three dioceses in Germany investigate
Some people wonder if the issues of the church in the U.S. so that they can
celibacy and loneliness are difﬁcult for learn and implement some of the things
a priest. I don’t think they need to be. we do.
www.usml.edu 4 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 4 12/11/06 11:52:38 AM
I think that the Half of a pastor’s
same quali- work is adminis-
tering the sacra-
ties that make
ments. The other
a man a good half is working with
father and hus- the staff to set up a Do you want to
band also en- mechanism to most be a priest?
able him to be effectively make
Christ present to the If Jesus Christ is the son of God who
a good priest.
parish. That’s where came to earth, suffered, died for us and
the headaches are, rose from the dead to share God’s life
but also the fun and the rewards. with us, then what he had to say and how
Everyone in a parish, including myself, he lived is of ultimate importance.
has an agenda. So the tough part is trying
to listen to where the Spirit is trying to take Do you wish to be a part of
us as the body of Christ. How do we get to what he was about so much that you want
the point where we are fulﬁlling God’s will? to live his life and share with others what
How do we get the involved parishioners he had to say?
pulling together toward a common goal, Do you want to give your life to oth-
not just pushing for their own interests? ers as he did?
We want to get people energized and Do you have a love of the Lord that
lives changed – to see faith come alive. A moves you to give God everything, as
recent example of this is a single woman Jesus did?
who worked at an advertising ﬁrm. When Are you open to his prompting deep
she caught a vision at the parish, she was within you?
eventually able to leave her job to become Can you love people so much that
a pastoral associate. you are able to love those who are unlove-
Since life as a priest is busy, I have to Can you relate to others as “one who
plan prayer into my day, or it won’t hap- serves?”
pen. I get up an hour before our morning Can you be happy with others and
Mass to do the Divine Ofﬁce and pray. It’s happy when alone?
a quiet time for me to “get my head on
straight” before the activity begins.
Two other important ways I receive spir-
itual replenishment are from an annual
retreat and from belonging to a couples’
prayer group that meets every month.
I didn’t come from a particularly religious
family, so seminary and the priesthood
have been an ongoing development in the
spiritual life – much as we see St. Paul’s
life develop throughout his epistles, once
Christ appeared to him.
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Father Bob Barron
Life as a seminary professor
more personal, to the point that I was thinking
about the priesthood.
I continued my intellectual wrestling
while getting a master’s degree in philos-
ophy at Catholic University in Washing-
ton, D. C. By the time I entered Munde-
lein, I had things clear in my mind, and
was sure of my calling. My attraction to
prayer and to the Liturgy helped determine
my decision, along with my desire to give
myself to the service of God. I reasoned, from
Aquinas, that if God is the greatest good, then
I want to give myself to him.
A major inﬂuence in my life was the
example of my parents, both great
ather Bob Barron is a professor people. My dad’s faith was the bedrock of his
at Mundelein Seminary and the life, and he was a man of deep principle and
integrity. My mother and I had many theologi-
host of a radio talk show on cal conversations, even when I was a child; I
Relevant Radio. would say that any natural verbal skills I have
I received from her.
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I remem-
ber being fascinated by the Mass and the After ordination in 1986, I served as
priest. My parents claim that I talked about a parish priest for three years. Then I
being a priest even then. As I grew older, that studied systematic theology in Paris for three
fascination was replaced by dreams of being a years at the Institut Catholique. In 1992, I
baseball player and a lawyer. began teaching at Mundelein Seminary, which
I love. Over the years, I have expanded my
Then, at my Dominican high school, my ministry into writing books and articles, giving
teacher introduced me to Thomas Aqui- lectures and retreats, and now a radio show on
nas’ Five Arguments for the Existence of Relevant Radio called Word on Fire.
God. That early exposure to Aquinas changed
my life and gave me a sense of the reality of As a teacher, preacher and writer, I sow the
God that I have never lost. By the end of high seeds of God’s word in all directions, never
school, my intellectual quest for God became knowing for sure what the result will be.
www.usml.edu 6 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 6 12/11/06 11:52:52 AM
Years ago, a wom- But there is a hunger
an contemplating for God built into
human nature that is
suicide happened always there, always
to wander into strong. So, when the
the church where word is powerfully
What is seminary
I was preach- proclaimed, when
ing and, as she the seed is deeply all about?
planted, obstacles are
told me later, the overcome and good College seminary is for men who have
words she heard things happen. earned a high-school diploma. Major semi-
kept her from kill- nary is for college graduates.
ing herself. For instance, years
College-bound men and those working
ago, a woman con- on undergraduate degrees should contact:
templating suicide happened to wander Rev. Tom Conde • St. Joseph Seminary
into the church where I was preaching Phone: 773.973.9706
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • www.stjoseph.luc.edu
and, as she told me later, the words she
heard kept her from killing herself. I have Post-college-age men and those about
no clear memory of what I said, but God was to ﬁnish an undergraduate degree should
working through my sermon. More recently, contact:
Rev. Joe Noonan • Mundelein Seminary
I received an e-mail from a church group in
China telling me how they have beneﬁted E-Mail: email@example.com • www.usml.edu
from my homilies, which they access through
the Internet. Stories such as these are deeply Additional Programs Available:
Casa Jesús - a house of formation for Hispanic
gratifying and very humbling.
candidates wishing to enter the seminary.
Rev. Alejandro Garrido,
Since much of my time is spent prepar- Phone: 312.738.0700
ing papers and talks, I need to pray; E:Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • www.CasaJesus.org
otherwise, my source for inspiration
Bishop Abramowicz Preparatory Seminary
would dry up. The essence of my prayer - a house of formation for Polish candidates wishing
life is the Ofﬁce (the Liturgy of the Hours). to enter the seminary.
It is like refreshing water in the desert. I love Contact Rev. Richard J. Klajbor:
the rhythm of it. I also pray the rosary on a
regular basis, and like to spend time before
the Blessed Sacrament. InSearch - a discernment / formation program for
adult men considering a second career as priests.
Contact Rev. Joe Noonan:
The priesthood gives me great joy. I
have never regretted it, or been even E-Mail: email@example.com
mildly tempted to leave, or to adopt
some other form of life. If you hear a If you are interested in providing ﬁnancial assistance
for the promotion of vocations, please send contribu-
call from God, take it seriously. Listen
attentively. Don’t resist it. If the world of- University of St. Mary of the Lake,
fers money or fame, don’t listen. Have the c /o Rev. Joe Noonan
courage to follow God. If you’re successful 1000 E. Maple Avenue, Mundelein IL 60060
in his eyes, that’s what matters.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 7 12/11/06 11:52:53 AM
Spreading the good news
Part of the curriculum was going to the
Philippines for three months to serve
the poor. That was a tremendous experi-
ence. I came away with a perspective of the
church. that wasn’t limited to Chicago. It
also made me think of how to lead a more
meaningful life and what I could do to
change the world. Before, my thoughts had
been centered on how to make money. The
result was deciding to become a priest.
The work we do in our parish, which is
about 80 percent Hispanic, focuses primar-
ily on creating and supporting family, and
on evangelism. I (and some of the parish-
ioners) walk the neighborhood and talk to
people one on one. I get out as much as I can
so that the people can experience someone
who loves them. We invite them to church
and, thankfully, people are responding.
fter ordination, Father San-
I try to be a model Christian for my com-
chez served three years at munity. They need to see a priest dedicat-
Our Lady of Grace Church. ed to the parish. Many young people have
He was then named director of the a hard time handling commitment because
Ofﬁce for Hispanic Catholics in they haven’t seen it modeled at home. I
Chicago, where he worked for six challenge and invite them to think about
living in a new way, the way Christ asks us
years. He is now pastor of Mary to. I want them to understand sacriﬁce and
Queen of Heaven Parish, Cicero. spirituality, and to have a relationship with
Jesus who is passionate about us.
When in college I began to think about
changing ﬁelds, my pastor asked if I had I have some young men in seminary now,
considered the priesthood. Despite my and one who will be attending Mundelein
apprehension, I decided to give it a try for in the fall. Young men all over are respond-
a year at St. Joseph (then Niles) College ing to a call to the priesthood now because
Seminary. they see themselves as being able to help bring
www.usml.edu 8 Archdiocese of Chicago
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I have no healing to a commu-
nity and solutions to
doubt that problems. I ask the
priests of seminarians that I
Jesus Christ know to think about
are indispens- doing something be-
yond their capabili- Come and See!
able for the
ties. I challenge them
salvation of to be heroes. People “As Jesus was walking along the
the world. expect extraordinary Sea of Galilee, he watched two broth-
things from those ers – Simon, now known as Peter,
called to an extraordinary life. I encourage and his brother, Andrew – casting a
young men and women not to be ordinary. net into the sea. They were ﬁshermen.
He said to them, “Come after me and
Do I like being a priest? Did I make I will make you ﬁshers of men.” They
the right decision? Absolutely! It’s immediately abandoned their nets and
wonderful. I do not only serve as an in- became his followers. He walked along
strument of God, but as a witness of his farther and caught sight of two other
grace. I have the honor of seeing people brothers – James, Zebedee’s son, and
transform their lives. This is not just a his brother, John. They too were in their
job. We are supposed to be like Christ, boat, getting their nets in order with their
the spouse of the church. A priest needs father, Zebedee. Jesus called them, and
to be a father and husband at heart. immediately they abandoned boat and
father to follow him.” (Matt 4:18-22)
One time, a frightened young woman
with three children asked me to
anoint her before her surgery for
liver cancer. When she told me that she
hadn’t been married in the church, but
wanted to be, I asked her husband if he
desired to be married sacramentally. He
said, “Deﬁnitely.” He then went down on
his knees and asked her to marry him.
They were married in the presence of
their children and family, and with my-
self and two relatives as witnesses. She
who was buried in pain was anointed
and reconciled. Her family rejoiced, and
also prayed for her physical healing. She
said she never had been so happy and
was no longer afraid of the surgery. This
new courage was a visible sign of God’s
presence in her life. I have no doubt that
priests of Jesus Christ are indispensable
for the salvation of the world.
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From Nigeria to Chicago
to the priesthood
When my father died in 1986, I
wanted to study in Lagos so I could
be close to my mother to help her. I
wasn’t able to, so I had to leave semi-
nary. Eventually, I moved to Chicago
to live with my brothers. By then, I had
decided not to become a priest. I was
teaching CCD at the parish, and when
I told the pastor about my background,
he asked me to think about going back
to the seminary. He said he would be
happy to recommend me. As a result, I
attended college seminary, then Munde-
lein, and was ordained in 1998.
I love to celebrate Mass with the
I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and
very early became interested in the
priesthood, for three reasons. One
was that the priest is well respected in
Nigeria. Second, I was able to see some
people. When I look out and realize that
I know them and they know me, I feel at
home. To be with the parishioners is my
goal and desire. I make myself visible be-
fore and after Mass for those who want to
of the life of a priest because I was an al- talk with me or have me pray with them.
tar server, and because our pastor would As a priest, I want to always be a part of
take me with him sometimes when he the people, whether at Mass or visiting
went to visit the elderly and to anoint the the sick. I am fortunate to be allowed into
sick. Third, I was fascinated by the way the intimate aspects of their lives.
priests dress to celebrate Mass.
One of the biggest needs of Catholics is
So at age 13, I left home for the ﬁrst to have someone open the Word of God
time to attend a high-school seminary to them through both the Scriptures
about 60 miles west of Lagos. It was and tradition. Catholics need to have a
difﬁcult being away from my family, and better understanding of why we do what
school was rigorous, but I enjoyed it. we do, so that they can take that to heart
By the second year, I had come to know and integrate it into their daily lives. This
many people. is what a priest can do for them.
www.usml.edu 10 Archdiocese of Chicago
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I love to If we believe that
celebrate Jesus is the word
Mass with the of life, then Jesus
people. When should speak to
us at every point
I look out and of life’s journey.
realize that I In America, there
The application process
know them is an abundance begins
and they know materially, though
me, I feel at inside there is The process of acceptance:
often emptiness. With the guidance from the archbishop
home. Because every- and the leadership of the vocation director
thing looks OK on the outside, and and seminary faculty, major emphasis is
because we are not living on the edge placed on recruitment, discernment, evalu-
ﬁnancially, we don’t realize how frag- ation and formation of men interested in
ile life is. Sometimes we fail to realize preparing for priesthood. The goal is to
the importance of God. Again, this prayerfully and carefully select men who,
is where the priest is valuable to the by word and deed, will help build up the
community. kingdom of God.
When people are sick, dying or in
any type of need, they naturally turn First contact:
to a priest. I say to young men who a. Personal visit at the vocations ofﬁce.
are considering the priesthood, “What b. Through the local parish priest or other
other profession can give you access to staff member of your parish.
people at critical times in their lives, c. By letter or telephone inquiry.
and a chance to give them hope?” It is d. By participation in a discernment retreat.
a unique vocation. For me, I am happy
and excited to be a priest. After an initial meeting with the direc-
tor of seminarians, and with his approval,
My relationship with Jesus began in the potential candidate will meet with the
the Eucharist as a little boy, and it seminary admissions board.
continues in the Eucharist today. I fos-
ter it in my prayer time. I read Scripture
a lot. I speak to God conversationally,
giving him thanks. When we give thanks
in prayer, it helps us to develop faith
and hope, because giving thanks helps
us to see the blessings God has given us.
I also pray for our parishioners, especial-
ly the sick and dying. Whenever I meet
people, they ask me to pray for them. I
promise that I will; and I do. That is my
job; that is my life’s work.
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From priest in Mexico
to bishop in Chicago
The foundation having been laid, my
preparation for the priesthood would
continue. My relationship with Jesus grew
over the years and came to prioritize service
to others. Every weekend, beginning when I
was just 11 and lasting until I was 16, I was
invited by the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
to serve the poor in a variety of ways in the
city of San Luis Potosi. After seeing the lifestyle
of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, I wanted
t his First Communion, at age to live like them. At 16, I went to Mexico City
6, Gustavo Garcia-Siller ﬁrst to join the novitiate. The words appearing on
thought of becoming a priest. their vocational outreach literature moved me
The idea never left him. He began a deeply. They read, “Belonging all to God, in
new journey with Jesus, participating order to belong to all peoples.” First is Jesus,
who leads us to ﬁnd others.
at the celebration of the Mass every
day. The greatest mystery about being a priest is
celebrating the Eucharist with the people of
My vocation was fostered by my family life. God, especially among the poor. I fondly re-
I am the oldest of 15 siblings. I have always member saying Mass in remote villages where
been able to love the Lord because of the love rocks were the pews for the congregation and
I received from my parents, my brothers and where people longed to build community out
my sisters. My parents, by their own personal of love for God and neighbor.
witness to the faith and their prayer life, were
instrumental in the development of my faith. Being from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, I never
The religious sisters who taught me in school, thought I would be coming this far north. It
and others who helped me prepare for ﬁrst is all part of God’s plan. Prior to my appoint-
Communion, instilled in my heart a thirst for ment from Pope John Paul II as auxiliary bish-
Jesus. My uncle, who was a seminarian at that op of Chicago in 2003, I lived the religious life
time, and my pastor were great inspirations within the Congregation of the Missionaries
to me in my vocation. Their presence in my of the Holy Spirit. I spent most of my priestly
life exempliﬁed the beauty of the priesthood. I life on the West Coast of the United States. My
wanted to be a priest like my pastor. All these order sent me to minister to migrant workers
faith-ﬁlled individuals imbued a passion for in California for the ﬁrst time in 1980, four
Jesus Christ deep within me. I most especially years before I was ordained. While attending
felt great stirring toward the Holy Eucharist. St. John Seminary in Camarillo, Calif., my love
www.usml.edu 12 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 12 12/11/06 11:53:31 AM
I believe deepened for Jesus and in-
that if you stilled in my heart a greater
desire to bring Christ to all
fall in love
you will ﬁnd As the years unfold, I
As you discern,
out what he continue to experience pay attention to these:
asks of you. the sense of my own
limitations. Even though A gentle nudge or tug pointing to a
the growing sense of limitation continues, particular vocation or ministry – a recur-
my faith journey gently reminds me of ring thought you have dismissed time and
the overpowering scriptural words, “It time again.
was not you who chose me. It was I who
chose you.” I so believe and remain com- Comments and advice regarding
mitted to daily, extensive time in prayer your abilities, gifts or future from those
with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. My who know you.
relationship with God sustains, enlivens
and invigorates me in such a way that I The places where you resist God’s
want to share his love with others. invitation – through refusal to look at some-
thing in your life or by avoiding prayer.
Every vocation is a gift, a grace from
God. We come to know it through
prayer, discernment and community. If
you are in the process of discovering what The resurrected Jesus, who promised
God’s will is for you, I invite you to spend “to be with us always, even to the end of
time with the Lord, speaking with him, time,” continues “looking at people full
listening to him. Let the Holy Spirit work in of compassion and does not want them
you. Seek spiritual direction. Talking over to walk around afﬂicted and helpless like
your spiritual life with your parish priest, a sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 28:20, Heb 7:25)
vocation director or someone in religious life Jesus keeps calling and choosing among his
will enable you to understand where God is disciples so “that they might be with him and
leading you. There are many people who can he might send them forth to preach.” (Mark 3:14)
help you determine if God is calling you to I hope that if you are a young man reading
the priesthood. this now, whom God is calling to the priest-
hood, you will say “yes” to his call and join
I believe that if you fall in love with me and my brother priests in the vineyard.
God, you will ﬁnd out what he asks of Then you will be able to partake in this great
you. Pope Benedict XVI says, “It is only mystery.
when a young man has had a personal
experience of Christ that he can truly un- “Does not this world of ours need joyful wit-
derstand the Lord’s will and consequently nesses and prophets of the beneﬁcent power
his own vocation. The better you know of God’s love? Does it not also need men and
Jesus, the more his mystery attracts you. women who, by their lives and their work,
The more you discover him, the more you are able to sow seeds of peace and love?”
are moved to seek him.” (Pope John Paul II)
MUN-vocationbook.indd 13 12/11/06 11:53:35 AM
Father Matt Foley
An unplanned turn in the road
My friends probably thought I had had
too many beers. I remember telling my
spiritual director at the seminary that
nobody really expects me to continue
on and become a priest. His response
was, “Two people do – you and me. And
After 17 years, I have no regrets. I am
grateful. As humans, we sin against each
other and betray one another, but God
has never steered me wrong.
I have four brothers and two sisters.
My oldest brother has Down Syndrome
– so I was trained growing up to help
those who need preferential treatment.
That also helped me to see that, in com-
parison, I had been given a lot of ability
I was a sophomore at Marquette
University and having a great time
– studying law, president of the rugby
club, in a serious relationship with a girl.
My plan was to marry and have a couple
and, therefore, much was expected of
me. My parents were supportive of my
calling and never pressured me. Their
attitude was that it was my vocation, not
theirs. My mother’s brother was a priest,
of kids. Then God touched me. In the so that helped form their outlook.
midst of a very enjoyable time in my life – in
school, relationships, activities – God called As a priest, I am privileged to be invit-
me to investigate following Jesus as a priest. ed into the most sacred and vulnerable
areas of people’s lives, to celebrate
I was bewildered and felt unworthy to with them and to walk with them in
be called. God, in essence, gave me no the mysteries of God and his grace.
warning or option. If I did not investi- There are not many dull moments.
gate the call to priesthood, I would be
turning away from him. God chose me I try to empty myself so that God can
– I did not choose him. The result was better use me. That is a constant strug-
that in my junior year I left everything, gle. I am always pushing myself to make
and entered Mundelein Seminary. sure I’m not comfortable with everything
www.usml.edu 14 Archdiocese of Chicago
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God chose around me, so that
me – I did not I can grow more. I
want to stay ﬂex-
ible so God can do
The result with me what he
was that in my wants, and so that Pope John Paul II invited
junior year I I am forced to de-
young men to consider the
left everything, pend upon him. I
keep praying, “Use priesthood
me, God.” That
Mundelein can’t happen if I
Seminary. am comfortable. “The ﬁrst disciples, and in a special
way the Twelve, were invited to become
I was a missionary for the Chicago friends of Jesus. But the condition for
Archdiocese for six years in Mexico. being admitted to this privileged relation-
In fact, I wanted to be a missionary ship was their radical commitment. Today,
before I wanted to be a priest. Cardinal too, the only possible response to Christ’s
George knows I am always ready to go call remains that of the apostles: ‘They left
anywhere. One of my “hobbies” is to everything and followed him.’”
visit my family for a while on vacation, (Luke 5:11)
then spend the other two weeks of it in
Mexico with a dental missionary team
in the area where I used to serve. We
have probably served more than 5,000
We need to spend less time talking
about how to spread the good news,
and more time actually spreading it.
That’s what I like about Peter and Paul.
They didn’t sit around until they ﬁxed
every problem and their community
was in perfect shape. They moved on
with spreading the Gospel. To attract
young men to the priesthood, we need
the zeal and passion of Peter and Paul.
For those considering the priesthood,
I say to surrender to the Lord, to his
mercy. Take a risk. God never denies
us. We have a vocation, a call from
God. We should wear it on our sleeves
full time, not worrying that if we do
too much, we will burn out. God has
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Fifty-ﬁve years of priesthood
I offer Mass at the beginning of the day
at St. Edna Church, where I live. Mass
is still the center of my day, as it is for all
the people of God. I also help out with
baptisms and confessions, with the senior
ministry at the parish and at a nearby
retirement center once a week.
As each year passes, I have more reason to
be grateful that God has given me the time
to thank and praise him through offering
the Mass, and sharing that with others. I
have come to appreciate that Jesus is a merci-
ful, forgiving God. He has used me to bring
people into the church and to bring others
forgiveness through the sacraments.
When I was in the seventh or eighth
grade, I ﬁrst saw the importance of the
ather Gene Faucher came Eucharist. This was in 1938-39, when
down with pleurisy in high the Mass was still said in Latin. Our par-
school. Thirty years later it ish priest would take us into the church
and talk about the Mass – how it is the
was tuberculosis – because one lung prayer of the people and it is God’s gift
had become inoperative. Neverthe- to us through Jesus. He stressed that it
less, throughout his life, he has been was our right as the baptized to share and
healthy and active, even after that participate in it. His dedication inspired
lung was removed 40 years ago. At me to think about the priesthood. After
entering Quigley Seminary, I never ques-
age 80, though retired, he still has a tioned or doubted that I wanted to pursue
busy schedule. ordination. The good friends I made in
seminary conﬁrmed my decision.
When I was younger, I played a lot of
basketball. Now, instead of a fast break, I am very glad that I became a priest. It
I play golf; and the running has turned has been a blessed life. I think fondly of
into walking. But God has given me good all the people I have worked with and been
health, despite the one lung. I am one of associated with – those who want to live a
the most fortunate people on the planet. life of service to others.
www.usml.edu 16 Archdiocese of Chicago
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I have never For 10 years, I taught
tired of saying Latin, Greek and
religion at Quigley. In
the Mass dur-
talking with the boys,
ing these 55 and as a spiritual direc-
years. It is the tor there, I tried to get
best prayer them thinking deﬁ- The archdiocese is diverse
that Jesus nitely along the lines
of entering the priest-
has given us
hood. I told them that Population of Archdiocese:
to thank God it was a most enjoyable
for all of his and rewarding life, that White: 1,211,000 – 51.3%
blessings. the gains are far more Hispanic: 939,000 – 39.8%
than the demands. To
me, it’s as happy a life as one could have. African-American: 93,000 - 3.9%
Other than the years teaching at Quigley, I Asian/other: 105,000 - 4.4%
have been a parish priest, which has been
most fulﬁlling. Multi racial: 15,000 – 0.6%
Our calling as Catholics to be God’s
people is not an onerous burden, but Scheduled Masses
a gift. We have been called, and have a Weekend Masses scheduled in
purpose from him. For that reason, I have
never tired of saying the Mass during parishes and missions: 1,752
these 55 years. It is the best prayer that English: 1,381
Jesus has given us to thank God for all of
his blessings. Because of that, I wish I had Spanish: 246
lived even more loyally to Christ; but he Polish: 87
has blessed me even when I failed.
Other language: (17) 38
MUN-vocationbook.indd 17 12/11/06 11:54:00 AM
Father Gary Graf
“Missionary” at home
even more today than when I would think
about it as a kid.
Serving in Mexico from 1989-1994 was a
learning experience, ﬁrst just from being
immersed in a new culture and language.
Also, by getting the feel for what it was like
to be a foreigner in a different country, to
be a big-city kid in a little village, and to get
to know people at an intimate level, since
the parish was small. Those were valuable
lessons for ministering to my parish, Holy
Family in Waukegan – where I have been
since 1994, and which is 85 percent Span-
ish-speaking. I still have the desire to go to
other countries, but I am doing missionary
work, in a sense, right here.
At Holy Family, we are following the mod-
hen he was 8 or 9 years el of turning declining parishes into minis-
old, Gary Graf began try sites instead of merging them into one.
thinking about becoming At one of the parishes, we have Mass and the
sacraments; the other parishes have become
a priest and missionary; he never
centers for legal services or social services
seriously considered anything else. – like a food pantry, soup kitchen, or clothes
Since being ordained in 1984, he and furniture distribution center.
has worked in Mexico for ﬁve years
and predominantly with Hispanics in What I seem to do most often, and enjoy
most, is giving hope. Whether at a funeral
parishes in the archdiocese.
or in the daily routine of life, I try to be a
sign to people of what is behind the im-
I was ﬁrst drawn to the priesthood by the mediate, of what is beyond pain and death.
priests who visited our classrooms. They Just from being a priest, I have immediate
were good role models, and had a positive access to lives. I don’t want to miss that op-
effect on the parish and community. A priest portunity to communicate the love, peace
in love with what he does is very attractive and message that God has for them. That’s
to others. For myself, I love being a priest my responsibility.
www.usml.edu 18 Archdiocese of Chicago
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Being a Especially in the
priest is not Latino community,
because of the trust
so much in priests, I don’t
what you have to go out look-
do, but who ing for people. They
you are. come to me. I do my St. Francis
best to serve them, like
Jesus, who came not to erect a church
Lord, make me an instrument of
building, but to proclaim the kingdom. I
need to organize and live my life so that
can happen. Where there is hatred,
let me sow love;
Being a priest is not so much what where there is injury, pardon;
you do, but who you are. It is a where there is doubt, faith;
chance to have incredibly intimate re- where there is despair, hope;
lationships with people. A priest needs where there is darkness, light;
to fall in love with people. I receive and where there is sadness, joy.
warmth, hugs, kisses from the people O, Divine Master,
I serve on a daily basis. I can’t imagine
grant that I may not so much seek
my life being richer than it is now. No
one in another ﬁeld can receive the
to be consoled as to console;
unconditional love I do. to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
That’s why I tell young men think- for it is in giving that we receive;
ing of the priesthood to fall in love it is in pardoning that we are
with people and let them love you in pardoned;
return. Everything comes out of that and it is in dying that we are
relationship. That’s what gives the priest- born to eternal life.
hood deﬁnition and meaning. It is su-
perﬁcial otherwise, and makes no sense.
Together with the people, you enter into
a dialogue with the Spirit to hear what
God is saying to us.
When parishioners come for counsel-
ing or advice, they are hoping that I
have a relationship with God which al-
lows them to hear his heart and mind
through my words. Consequently, I
need to live a life of prayer, and maintain
a relationship with the Lord that allows
them to experience his love through me.
I can’t be there for them if I’m not spend-
ing time with the Lord.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 19 12/11/06 11:54:15 AM
An ongoing call
can inner-city parish as my ﬁrst assign-
ment. Because of the liveliness of the faith
there (many parishioners had more faith
than I did) and the immediacy of human
needs, I saw a great opportunity.
Many years later, when I moved to a sub-
urban parish with a higher educational and
ﬁnancial level, I realized that my challenge
would be to grow in my ability to draw
people into ministry and leadership.
Over the years, I have had to learn hu-
man relations skills – how to deal with
diversity, plurality, conﬂict, assertion
hen my brother was nearly
of authority. We don’t come out of the
killed in an auto accident, our
seminary fully formed; the priesthood is on-
parish priest anointed him in
going training. I have tried to make myself
the hospital, and also helped our family
available and to be meaningfully involved in
with other difﬁculties we were facing.
the lives of people. That excites me – being
As a result, at 10, I came to view the priest
around people, being “pastoral.”
as an important ﬁgure in our family life.
That impressed me enough to want to enter
Just as our parish priest was there for
Quigley High School, which, as a bonus,
my brother and family, I like best those
was new and near my home.
unexpected encounters that can become
a noteworthy God-moment in someone’s
I was in seminary right after the time life, and in my own. When I walk into the
of Vatican II, and I embraced the open- hospital, for instance, I never know what will
ness and newness brought about by the happen. A person may open up to me because
council. As one of our professors said, “The I’m a priest, and I can be signiﬁcant in his life,
core teaching of the Catholic Church hasn’t in a way I don’t control. There are so many
changed, but our way of articulating it has.” occasions like that each day which I recognize
We felt as if our commission was to bridge afterward, when I have time to step back and
the old way and the new way. evaluate what has happened.
My idealism was one reason I volun- Having said that, it’s necessary for us to
teered to work in a poor, African-Ameri- understand that our effectiveness isn’t au-
www.usml.edu 20 Archdiocese of Chicago
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Over the years, tomatic by virtue
I have had to of being a priest.
learn human A devotional life is
relations skills crucial. That’s why I
get up at 5:15 a.m.
– how to deal
for prayer, quiet Who would make a good
with diversity, time and reﬂection.
plurality, conﬂict, priest?
I know my day
assertion of will be hectic soon Priesthood is more than a career – it is a
authority. enough. way of life. When considering yourself as
a candidate for the priesthood, consider
I feel lucky to be working with two oth- these characteristics common to all good
er priests – one younger, one older – at priests. A priest is:
Mary Seat of Wisdom. We can bounce
ideas off each other. I also receive support Someone who has a deep relationship
from a group comprised of lay people and with the Lord through both prayer and
priests that meets every other week. action;
Someone who is caring, compassion-
I have had a spiritual director for many ate, available and welcoming;
years, who was especially helpful when Someone who has leadership qualities
I had doubt and clinical depression in and potential;
my early ministry. To have help with my Someone who is self-assured, yet does
prayer life and to receive direction was not think he knows it all;
invaluable. Having received help is one Someone who desires to love and care
reason I serve as a mentor to priests under- for people of every race, language and
going their evaluation, and as a spiritual walk of life;
director to both seminarians and priests. Someone who has a servant’s heart
and the desire to seek ways to help
Priests can’t have children who become and nurture others, while caring for
priests, so in order to have a next himself;
generation of priests, we all need to
do something to facilitate that. I tell
seminarians and young men considering
the seminary, “We need you.” I let them
know that I am a happy priest, and em- “As a priest, I can
phasize that the work is fulﬁlling. promise you sorrow,
and loneliness. If you
are good priests, I can
promise, as well, the
greatest joy that any
human being can expe-
rience in this world.”
– Cardinal John O’Connor
MUN-vocationbook.indd 21 12/11/06 11:54:25 AM
The meaning of
year as a printer when I left college semi-
nary for a while. For my life, nothing other
than the priesthood made any sense. I still
can’t think of anything I would rather do.
I was 16 when my father was mugged
in 1969, during those years of racial
conﬂict. As a result of his death, I was torn
between going back to seminary or help-
ing my mother, who had become a young
widow. She made it clear that she wanted
me to continue with my seminary studies.
In my ministry, the sacramental moments
have been the most meaningful times.
To be allowed into people’s lives at those
special moments, even the difﬁcult ones, is
a great privilege. For instance, it’s wonder-
ather Klajbor grew up in a ful to hear a confession that comes from the
racially mixed neighborhood heart – when I understand what the person
is saying, and, in turn, when they have
in Chicago, and has worked
heard what I said, and what God said.
in multilingual parishes most of his
priesthood. He is rector of the Bish- People are in church for Jesus, not for
op Abramowicz Seminary, based at me. Like my mother would say, “If you
his parish, Holy Innocents. believe what you say you believe, then go
and talk, and God will take care of it.” If
we as priests believe we are alter Christus,
I don’t remember a time from ﬁrst grade then we can let Christ work through us.
on when I didn’t think of becoming a When good things occur, I’m not doing
priest. I was always impressed with the lit- it, God is. There have been times when I
urgy and with the parish priest, whether he go to the pulpit with nothing to say. But
was the type that we revered and respected it turns out well, and I can’t even tell you
from afar, or one that played sports with us. later where the words came from.
I worked a number of jobs to help put However, we need to prepare by praying
myself through school, including one –including the Ofﬁce (the Liturgy of the
www.usml.edu 22 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 22 12/11/06 11:54:35 AM
I don’t Hours) – and read-
ing Scripture. We
remember can’t do our ministry
a time from right if we don’t have
ﬁrst grade a foundation. If we
don’t pray every day,
Scriptural reﬂections to help
on when we get ourselves in you in your vocation journey
I didn’t trouble.
think of When I talk to
Praying and reﬂecting on God’s word will
becoming help you discern your calling. Here are
young men about
the priesthood, I tell some passages from Scripture relating to
them to look at the call, vocation, choices and journey that we
needs of the church suggest you meditate with:
and at their own needs. I tell them
to be selﬁsh, in one sense, so that they Old Testament
make a decision that’s good for them- Genesis 12:1-4a (Abraham)
selves as well as good for the church Exodus 3:10-12 & 4:1, 10-12 (Moses)
and for others. Amos 7:14-15
It’s a great life, because I can touch Jeremiah 1:4-8
others’ lives, and vice-versa. Statis- Ezekiel 3:1-4
tics tell us that priests are happy. I am. 1 Kings 10
Therefore, we need to let people know
it. Somehow our society has taken the New Testament
notion that priests aren’t supposed to Matthew 16:24-28 (The cross)
enjoy life. Who wants to join a fat, gray, Matthew 22:1-14 (Few chosen)
grumpy group of priests? But young Luke 4:1-13 (Temptations)
men will join a group of happy priests. Luke 10:38-42 (Martha and Mary)
They want to be involved in the church. Luke 12:22-31 (Seek ﬁrst)
Luke 18:15-30 (Rich young man)
When I was ordained, there were Romans 8:26-31 (All things)
30 others from Chicago ordained
with me. The numbers have decreased
steadily since then. One of the rea-
sons we have the Bishop Abramowicz
Seminary at Holy Innocents is because
the American church hasn’t been able
to supply enough of its own priests. We
have had 14 ordained in the past seven
years. At present, we have eight men
from Poland studying with us. I teach
them English and inculturation. They
are a reminder that the church reaches
beyond Chicago and beyond the U.S.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 23 12/11/06 11:54:36 AM
Devoted to Our Lady
Since one purpose of a pilgrimage is
to have an encounter with God, many
people come to Maryville to get their
lives straightened out. Frequently during
homilies, I invite people to the sacrament of
reconciliation; there is always a big line at
I pray for the grace to be a good confes-
sor, to be available as a channel of God’s
grace and mercy for those who want to
reconcile to God, the church and with
themselves. It is a joy to see the change
rowing up in Guadalajara,
on someone’s face at the end of confession.
Mexico, Father Miguel Their whole lives can be changed with the
Martinez was familiar with words of absolution.
the devotion to Our Lady of Guada-
lupe. Now, as a priest in the Arch- When I was in sixth grade, my parish
priest invited me to go to seminary. He
diocese of Chicago, he is director of
was very self-giving, a good example to fol-
the Maryville Our Lady of Guadal- low. I spent 15 years at seminary (including
upe Chapel in Des Plaines. Mundelein). I enjoyed it from the beginning
– the education, the sports, the spiritual life,
the discipline. On the weekends, we were
Next to celebrating Mass, my greatest sent to different parishes to get a sense of
passion as a priest is to spread devo- parish life.
tion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I want
Maryville to become a more popular Many of my friends and family had
pilgrimage destination. In the summer, relatives emigrating to the United States
4,000 people often attend outdoor Mass on who were ﬁnding it difﬁcult to become
Sundays, about half of them being pil- integrated into a church. I knew that I
grims. There have been many healings and could help with the process if I became a
answered prayers, like at Guadalupe, with diocesan priest in the U.S. When I agreed
people leaving behind crutches, wheel- to go to school at Mundelein, I didn’t even
chairs, etc. as signs of God’s work. know where Chicago was (or what the
www.usml.edu 24 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 24 12/11/06 11:54:45 AM
I tell them to weather was like).
pray often about I was ordained in
their possible 2001. There are
vocation, to go now close to 50
to Mass, talk Mexican) priests in The Conference Center at The
with a good the Archdiocese of University of St. Mary
spiritual director, Chicago. of the Lake
talk to priests, Three young His- The Lord speaks to us in a soft
panic men have voice. If we are to hear him, we must be
trust in the Lord been asking me
and commend still and focus on our relationship with God
serious questions through contemplative prayer. This action
their decision about the semi- puriﬁes the temple of our soul. It removes
to the Blessed nary and priest- worldly distractions and provides an
Mother. hood. One asked intimate reception that welcomes our Lord
to spend the day into our innermost being.
following me in order to see what my life
is like. As priests, we need to invite and
follow up with those who show interest
in a vocation to the priesthood.
I tell them to pray often about their
possible vocation, to go to Mass, talk
with a good spiritual director; visit
seminaries, talk to priests, trust in the
Lord and commend their decision to
the Blessed Mother. Then to do what Nestled amid acres of grassy knolls
their hearts are telling them to do. and pine groves, the Conference Center
at The University of St. Mary of the Lake’s
It is hard for a young person to make a serene environment offers a special op-
commitment to the priesthood because portunity for quiet and spiritual renewal.
there are so many distractions. The We invite you to come away with the Lord.
world offers a number of other things, Take the time for some quiet prayer and
like money and career. We live in a society introspection. For more information, call
that doesn’t appreciate religion or God, 847.566.8290.
and priests certainly don’t get the ap-
plause and recognition that others in so-
ciety do. I am happy, loved and respected
at Maryville. But outside the grounds,
people think I’m crazy to be a priest. Eucharist more and celebrate Mass with
greater love and enthusiasm. The Eucharist is
Over the past ﬁve years, I have become vital for my priesthood, and, in fact, I can’t un-
increasingly aware of Jesus’ presence derstand my priesthood without it. It is painful
in the Eucharist, so I appreciate the if I ever have to miss saying Mass one day.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 25 12/11/06 11:54:50 AM
A chaplain for ﬁreﬁghters
Working with the Chicago Fire Department
has deepened my faith, especially when I
see the incredible work they do and their
sacriﬁce for complete strangers. They live
the biblical imperative of Matthew 25: “As you
did it to one of the least of these my brethren,
you did it to me.” Seeing their work helps
me to hold on to the basics of the faith about
giving up our lives. It ties in perfectly to the
Eucharist, Jesus’ sacriﬁce. When he says, “Do
this in remembrance of me,” he is asking us to
give up our lives just as he gave his life for us.
ather Mulcrone was ordained As chaplain, I am on call six days, 24 hours
in 1977. He was a parish per day. I respond to multiple-alarm ﬁres,
priest for many years and is emergencies, or when there is a serious injury
now the chaplain at St. Mary of Provi- or death to members. The majority of these
occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Another
dence Home, a facility for mentally
part of my job is to visit hospitalized CFD
challenged and developmentally members, visit ﬁrehouses, attend wakes of ac-
disabled young people. Since 1987, tive and retired members (about 200 per year)
he has also been chaplain for the and maybe 60 funerals. I attend or participate
Chicago Fire Department, ministering in at least 200 other events each year, such as
weddings, baptisms, anniversaries and retire-
to 5,000 ﬁreﬁghters, paramedics and
ment parties. Then there is pastoral counsel-
civilian employees of the department, ing, a monthly Mass for service personnel
as well as to their families. and family members, and a number of other
I try to help ﬁreﬁghters discover the I call my work a ministry of presence be-
sacredness of their calling by telling them cause I bring a sign of God’s love, care and
that their work is noble, that it is God’s compassion – a sign of God’s great power
work. Many think you have to be a clergy of love present to celebrate in good times
person or a nun to make your work holy. and to help in the struggles. When I was in
But these people are the hand of God that seminary, the rector (who became a bishop)
touches broken, shattered lives. I tell them that told us, “If you’re not interfering in your
over and over. people’s lives, you’re not doing a good job.”
www.usml.edu 26 Archdiocese of Chicago
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I call my work I have four brothers
a ministry and three sisters.
One brother is also
a priest in Chicago
because I bring and works with the
a sign of God’s deaf (my maternal The calling
love, care and grandparents were
compassion – deaf). My parents “The grace of God makes a person
passed down to us into a priest. Simon, the ﬁsherman, before
a sign of God’s
the conviction that meeting with Christ, however thoroughly
great power of living a devout life is he might have searched within himself,
love present the right thing to do. could not possibly have found a trace of
to celebrate in Daily Mass, confession Peter … yet Peter was to be the fulﬁllment
good times and and the rosary were of all that he could possibly be.”
important to them.
to help in the (Hans Urs von Balthasar)
struggles. It was around sev-
enth or eighth grade that I ﬁrst became
interested in the priesthood, when a new
young priest brought exciting energy to
our parish and school. He inspired a sense
of vocation that stirred something inside.
I ended up going to high-school seminary,
then to Loyola of Chicago, before enter-
ing The University of St. Mary of the Lake,
I loved being a priest in the parish, and
now being chaplain. They have been good
years and I still look at every day as an ad-
venture. It is fulﬁlling to serve. Like the priest
who inspired me when I was 13, I bring
energy to my work that is fueled by joy and
love for the Lord. I hope it rubs off. In fact,
I know that I was inﬂuential in convincing
a dozen young men to join high-school
seminary when I was a parish priest.
These days, unlike years ago, more men
are entering seminary after being out in
the workplace. Sometimes you need to
ﬁnd out what you don’t want before you
can ﬁnd out what you do want. They come
searching, then they make a mature deci-
sion for the priesthood.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 27 12/11/06 11:55:05 AM
A Heart for Social Justice
and meetings. There I saw many ﬁery
priests speaking and working for freedom
and change. They inspired and inﬂuenced
me. I saw the church’s work for social justice
as a good and noble thing, and it helped plant
the idea of the priesthood in me.
Twice in my youth, Pope John Paul II came
to Poland. I only saw him at a distance be-
cause of the huge crowds, but I did meet him
in Rome during a seminary trip.
During my teen years, many people told
me that I would make a good priest. I didn’t
like hearing that because I wanted to be a
normal teenager, but I kept it in the back of
my mind. When I told my parents after high
school that I was going to seminary, they cried.
aldemar Stawiarski had
been in seminary in Po- When I arrived in Chicago, I spent a year at
land for three years when the Bishop Abramowicz Seminary at Holy
Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Jakubowski Innocents (see article on Father Richard
Klajbor, page 22 ). There I learned English
came there to recruit priests for the
and more about the culture. After that, I went
archdiocese. Out of curiosity about the to Mundelein Seminary for three years.
United States, and out of a sense of ad-
venture, Stawiarski decided to go. He Since St. Stephen is one of the newest
soon fell in love with Chicago and its parishes in the archdiocese, it has been
established on the biblical approach of
people. He was ordained in 2003 and
stewardship, by which we share our time,
is now associate pastor at St. Stephen, talent and treasure with each other. All that
Deacon and Martyr in Tinley Park. we have comes from God, and so we share
that in our worship, our abilities and our
When I was growing up near Krakow, my resources as gift.
father was heavily involved in the Solidari-
ty movement, was jailed a couple times as a One of my favorite parts of the priest-
result and banned from work for 10 years. hood is working with couples in marriage
I would go with him to the secret Masses preparation, giving them the church’s
www.usml.edu 28 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 28 12/11/06 11:55:15 AM
All that we teaching and talk-
have comes ing about their
questions or difﬁ-
from God, and culties. It is a joyful
so we share time, along with the
that in our wedding, of course. Are you looking for
worship; our Just being with all something different?
abilities and of the people of the
parish, even when I Are you looking for
our resources am tired, energizes something more?
as gift. me. I love their will-
ingness to be here, God often speaks to us in the still,
to contribute – and their smiles. small voice within our hearts. He also
makes his presence felt in the other
I ﬁnd that if I don’t set aside time for people in our lives. Priesthood is a giv-
prayer before or after morning Mass, ing of self to God and to his people.
it can get lost in the busy-ness of the
day. Although my work is a type of Are you committed to daily prayer?
prayer, too, since I try to do everything Conversing and chatting with God?
to the glory of God. Considering his will?
Now that I celebrate Mass with my own Do you have a sense of humor?
hands, I feel God’s presence even more
in the Eucharist and it has led to a deep- Can you be self-sacriﬁcing in giving
er relationship with Jesus. That is true for yourself over to God’s cause?
all the sacraments. I am serving the people
and helping them come close to God, but Is God persistent in giving you
I come closer at the same time, especially thoughts of being a priest?
in the anointing of the sick. Hospital and
emergency calls are especially humbling
and moving for me.
I am optimistic about vocations, but
saddened at the same time. Most young
people have their careers set in their mind,
and don’t even consider the priesthood
or religious life. I look with hope to the
younger children, and take the opportunity
to talk to them, spend time with them,
plant seeds and try to give them a positive
impression of priests, so that one day they
might answer God’s call to the priesthood
or religious life. Then they will understand
the joy that I feel every day in serving God’s
people as their priest.
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Life as a parish priest
friends, and we are still good friends 50
Then, while I was at Mundelein Seminary,
the Second Vatican Council was being
implemented. There was an eager anticipation
that the church could be renewed and could
be made more alive for people. You might say
we had a youthful enthusiasm and idealism.
Our ordination class at Mundelein was the
ﬁrst (and perhaps became the model for
other seminaries in the U.S.) to physically
leave the seminary during the summer and
hree inﬂuences at different
fall semesters in order to do parish minis-
stages of my life guided me try. Those experiences fed into our youthful
toward the priesthood. The idealism. We knew that we could make our
initial trigger was during grammar city of Chicago – and our world – better.
school, in getting to know the priest
at our parish while I was serving The seminary rector, Bishop Gorman, was
a great role model. Aware that the church was
Mass. I also spent a good deal of time changing after Vatican II, he was wise enough
working around the parish, which I to give us the freedom to talk about our fears
found worthwhile and which gave me and concerns.
satisfaction. The inner stirrings toward
the priesthood were validated by the Other than working at St. Mary of the Lake
for 12 years, I have been a parish priest. I
priests and sisters, my parents and pa- like being given the opportunity to enter
rishioners. It led to my entering minor into the lives of parishioners at very sig-
seminary. niﬁcant moments, and being connected to
families via baptisms, marriages and funer-
A second inﬂuence was the peer sup- als. I have the opportunity to invite them to
port available when I entered high- enter into their own ministry that may come as
school seminary in 1957. It wasn’t a result of being baptized, to encourage them
unusual then for young men to desire the in it and to help them develop it.
priesthood, and a large number did. It was
a supportive environment as we moved I enjoy developing a vision of parish mis-
toward ordination together. I made good sion and bringing it to fruition. One of the
www.usml.edu 30 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 30 12/11/06 11:55:28 AM
Then, while I was jobs of the
at Mundelein priest is to help
lay ministry ﬁt
into that vision
Second Vatican so that people
Council was be- aren’t working
ing implemented. in isolation.
There was an
Celebrating the To live in the midst of the world
Eucharist and without wishing its pleasures;
that the church preaching are to be a member of every family, yet
could be renewed the highlights
belonging to none;
and could be for me. It’s a
major responsi- to share all sufferings, to penetrate
made more alive
bility, not to be all secrets, to share all wounds;
taken casually, to go from humankind to God, and
and I put a lot offer their prayers;
of effort into it. I want to see that the parish
to return to humankind, and bring
celebrates Mass in the best way possible.
Every day, I spend 30-45 minutes on the pardon and hope;
Gospel for Sunday – in reﬂective medita- to have a heart of ﬁre for charity
tion, praying over it, reading Scripture com- and a heart of bronze for chastity;
mentary and asking myself what the Gospel to teach and to pardon; console
means for me and my parishioners.
and bless always.
Over the years, I have come to realize My God, what a life! And it is yours,
how deeply spiritual people are, and O priest of Jesus Christ!
how present God is in their lives. We – Lacordaire
need to stop and reﬂect upon that. As an
example, I see a richness during Christ
Renews His Parish weekends when people
experience God. He is present so much in
the world around us.
Support from other priests has been im-
portant to me. Talking among ourselves is
beneﬁcial, as with any group of like-minded
people. The priests in our area meet once a
month to talk about issues and to help each
And that group of priests I mentioned We also do other activities together occasionally,
that I have known since high-school such as going to a movie, to dinner, a symphony,
seminary? We bought a house together on or going on vacation together. That re-energizes
Lake Michigan years ago. We connect there. me for service to my parish.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 31 12/11/06 11:55:33 AM
Vin H Ha
Expelled from Vietnam –
welcomed in the U.S.
village, I would only come back home for
In 1975, when I entered major seminary,
we had to study theology and philosophy
“under the table” because the government
didn’t want any more priests. They wanted
us to go home and get married. Those of us
who continued were expelled from the coun-
try with no identiﬁcation papers.
I was sponsored into Savannah, Ga.,
while I was in the Philippines. From
there, I went to New York, where I worked
in a hotel for ﬁve months before coming to
Chicago. I entered Mundelein in 1989 and
ecause he was a seminarian was ordained in 1993. Since my ordina-
at the time, Father Dominic tion, I have been a parish priest and am
was expelled from Vietnam now pastor of St. Henry in Chicago. We
in 1987. He went to Cambodia, have nearly 30 ethnic groups in our parish.
Thailand and the Philippines before My desire as a priest is to bring people to
ﬁnally coming to the United States God and God to the people. I want to edu-
to pursue his dream of priesthood. cate people on how to develop their faith and
how to love and care for one another. Every-
one should be able to work and pray together
I grew up in a small village in northern – every language, every culture – because
Vietnam. I saw how our parish priest together we are the body of Christ. We may
helped the poor, the sick and elderly, and have differences, but we all have the same
helped the children learn about God and God who loves and cares for us and to whom
the church. That sowed the seed for my we run when in need. My biggest challenge is
vocation. Then, when I was in high school, to learn more about the different cultures so I
a priest came to our village to visit the can serve them better and get them to not just
parish. I recognized him as a good man, think of their own ethnic group.
so I followed him around. He talked to
me about the priesthood, and that day I pay special attention to the young, who
convinced me to enter the seminary, which need to grow in faith and love of God,
I did at 13. Since it was 40 miles from my and to the elderly, who need comfort
www.usml.edu 32 Archdiocese of Chicago
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In 1975, and care to prepare
when I en- for the moment
they are called
tered major home to God.
had to study One of my aims
is to be available
Facts about the
philosophy to my parishio- Archdiocese of Chicago
ners before and
“under the after each Mass,
table” because Established: Diocese 1843
because I feel that
the govern- my presence is
ment didn’t just as important
want any more for them as my 1,411 square miles. Includes
homilies. two counties in northeastern
Illinois: Cook and Lake
I am also a part-time spiritual direc-
tor. I have encouraged a number of
men to attend St. Joseph Seminary or 2.4 million Catholics (approx.)
St. Lawrence in Wisconsin, and then to
go on to Mundelein; three have been Archbishop: Francis Cardinal
ordained already. To men considering George, O.M.I., the sixth cardinal to
the priesthood, I tell them that “Jesus is
calling you and wants to use you. Listen
head the archdiocese, whose lead-
to this call; it is a blessing. Look around ers also included ﬁve bishops and
you for a good man or a good priest to two archbishops.
learn from, then follow his ways. Al-
ways keep your mind and heart humble
and open, because you never know
through whom Jesus will teach you.”
We do several things to increase the
spiritual life of the parish: a retreat
three times a year, an outdoor Mass
in English and Vietnamese three
times a year, a Corpus Christi proces-
sion that draws 1500 people, and Eu-
charistic adoration every Friday and
Saturday for two hours. In addition,
through the generosity of parishioners,
we will soon have two 12-ton, 12-foot-
high statues of Mary and Joseph, which
were sculpted in Vietnam. They will be
an aid in celebrating the Holy Family
and in our worship together.
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A Kenyan missionary in Chicago
one such activity, God touched me con-
cerning becoming a priest. A 60-year-old
lady was in the hospital dying of malaria.
While we were visiting her, she asked for
a priest to anoint her. When we couldn’t
ﬁnd one right away, we came back and
offered to pray with her instead. But her
only wish was for a priest. That’s when I
saw deeply the importance of the priest-
hood and made my ﬁnal decision.
I then attended seminary with the
Society of Missionaries in Africa. My
mentor during this time was Father Tom
nﬂuenced by the Maryknoll McQuaid, a priest of the Chicago Archdio-
missionaries at his parish in cese. He asked if I would come to Chicago
to be a priest; as a result, I entered Munde-
Northeast Kenya, Father Maina
lein in 1998 and was ordained in 2002.
Waithaka has come full circle, now
serving as a missionary, of sorts, at Because of the effect that missionaries
St. Sylvester Church in Chicago. had in my life, I always desired to be
one. Though I had never met any His-
panics in Kenya, I was attracted to them
My pastor in Kenya lived a simple life when I got to Chicago. Their culture was
alongside the people; he learned the similar to ours and, like me, they were
language, rode his bicycle or walked to immigrants. I ﬁgured if I lived and worked
places, and ate native food. I was an altar among a different culture, and had to learn
server and by eighth grade, because of his another language, it would be like being a
example, I wanted to go to seminary. missionary. I went to Mexico for a summer
of intense Spanish-language classes. My
Since we lived in a predominantly ﬁrst, and only, assignment as a priest has
Muslim area, the nearest seminary was been at St. Sylvester, a parish that is 80
24 hours away. While there, I joined the percent Hispanic.
Young Christian Students. We met weekly
for prayer and action, and did an hour of I am fulﬁlling my dream of the priest-
free service, such as collecting garbage or hood – to serve in a bilingual or trilingual
visiting the poor and hospitalized. During parish in the inner city, among the poor,
www.usml.edu 34 Archdiocese of Chicago
MUN-vocationbook.indd 34 12/11/06 11:56:03 AM
Though I had to help build
never met any
community. It is
Hispanics in taxing work, but
Kenya, I was necessary for an
attracted to immigrant com-
munity. Since those
As you think about your vocation,
them when I
of different cultures reﬂect on these questions:
got to Chicago.
have varying ways
Their culture of doing things, the What is most life-giving for me
was similar to goal is to get them right now?
ours and, like to work together
Where is my deepest desire?
me, they were and to accept and
enter into each What are my gifts and personal
Where am I best suited to serve?
I enjoy just being with the people, lis-
What are my commitments?
tening to them, serving them both at
parish activities and in their homes, What do I hear God saying?
and celebrating the sacraments. If I were on my deathbed, what
choice would I wish I had made?
I ﬁnd that the priesthood changes
What motives are driving me to
who I am. Through the constant
choose one ministry over another?
celebration of the sacraments, I am
developing a deep empathy with the
people. I identify with the parishioners
and they have become my priesthood. I
say the breviary now, for example, not
because it’s a requirement, but as a way
of praying for the needs and requests of
As I live simply among the people,
hopefully they will be inﬂuenced
as I was when I was growing up.
Our culture is not inviting toward the
priesthood, so to encourage vocations,
we need to start with the family. Priests
don’t come out of a vacuum. I tell young
people to search for God before search-
ing for a vocation. I ask them, “Do you
believe there is a God? Do you know
why we go to church? Do you enjoy
Mass and believe it is really Jesus who we
MUN-vocationbook.indd 35 12/11/06 11:56:05 AM
UNIVERSITY OF ST. MARY OF THE LAKE • MUNDELEIN SEMINARY
Anyone interested in the priesthood can contact
Fr. Joe Noonan, 847.566.6401.
All it costs is a loving heart and a willingness to learn.
So that others may serve …
esignating a portion of your estate to one of the seminaries of
the Archdiocese of Chicago enables you to honor the many ﬁne
priests who have served you and your parish over a lifetime.
Gifts through wills are easy to arrange and to change, if necessary. A will
or trust minimizes probate problems and provides for those you wish to
If you would like to help us ensure the education and formation of
tomorrow’s priests by designating a portion of your estate to our seminaries,
Mark J. Teresi, Ofﬁce of Institutional Advancement
University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
1000 E. Maple, Mundelein, IL 60060
847.970.4817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MUN-vocationbook.indd 36 12/11/06 11:56:18 AM