Catholic priests: Answering the call to priesthood at many ages Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Jun. 06, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Our three new priests in the Diocese of Madison seem to be following trends, according to a survey of priests being ordained in the United States this year.

Fr. Vincent Brewer, one of our newly ordained priests, has a degree in technical communication management and worked in the telecommunications industry before he entered the seminary. He attended Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., which prepares candidates for the priesthood between the ages of 30 and 60.

Another of our new priests, Fr. Stephen Petrica, was ordained an Anglican priest and decided to enter the  Catholic Church. He then sought to become a Catholic priest and was accepted by the Diocese of Madison. He studied at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

Our third newest priest, Fr. Garrett Kau, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He did not follow the later vocation path, since he became involved at St. Paul’s University Catholic Center at the university. He attended a men’s retreat featuring a panel of priests speaking about their vocations. After that, he looked into Church vocations and “decided to take the plunge” and apply for seminary studies.

Called at later ages

By and large, the age of men feeling the call to the priesthood is gradually increasing, as reported in a new study released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and reported in an article by Catholic News Service.

According to “The Class of 2013: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” the average age of men becoming priests this year is 35.5.  This annual survey of ordinands is commissioned by the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

About 74 percent of an estimated 500 men to be ordained priests in the United States in 2013 responded to the survey. The study showed that before entering the seminary, some of the men worked in education, finance, accounting, and insurance.

Example of one of our new priests

Fr. Vince Brewer was active in his hometown parish, St. Mary Parish in Richland Center, Wis., as a youth. He started serving Mass in the fourth grade and served as a lector and sang in the parish choir while in high school.

He served in the Navy for six years before attending the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He returned to being more involved in his faith at St. Augustine Parish in Platteville and explored the idea of priesthood or religious life. However, he put off making a decision and worked in communication jobs.

“Eventually the call to the priesthood emerged again. God was persistent,” he said. He applied to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison and was accepted.

Father Brewer was happy to attended a seminary geared to men like him. His fellow seminarians included a carpenter, insurance claims adjustors, a retired federal judge, a former IRS agent, and airline pilots.

Obviously God calls men to the priesthood at different times in their lives. We hope that men remain open to the call and are supported in their efforts to discern what to do.

Promoting vocations for all ages

Of course, not all men are waiting to answer the call. In the Diocese of Madison, we have a number of seminarians who entered the seminary after high school or during college. Bishop Robert C. Morlino encourages young people to consider Church vocations when he presides at Confirmations. He usually calls forth some young men and puts a zucchetto on their head. These men and their parents are invited to an annual gathering with the bishop and priests to explore the idea of a Church vocation in more detail.

The diocesan Office of Vocations also coordinates talks by the diocesan seminarians in parishes during the summer so parishioners can meet men who will become our future priests. This gives young people in our parishes models of what they could do.

I invite everyone in the Diocese of Madison to welcome our three new priests and also welcome our wonderful seminarians — men of all ages — who will be visiting our parishes this summer. Please pray for our new priests, our seminarians, and all of our priests that God will bless them in discerning and living their lives in service to the Church.