Priest Discernment Stories

Father Zachary Mabee

Zachary Mabee, who was raised Lutheran, went through the RCIA program at St. Thomas the Apostle in Ann Arbor.

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What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood? I entered the Church as I was completing my undergraduate studies. I was a philosophy student who liked to pray, study and serve others, especially those in need. So there was an affinity for the priesthood that emerged pretty quickly. As I prayed about the matter more, I became quite confident that I wanted to pursue the vocation.

What has this journey been like the last few years as you’ve prepared to be ordained? It’s been a good and satisfying journey, indeed. I think I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about the sort of priestly life and witness the Church wants and needs in this day and age. Though it’s been a long journey (seven years), I’m deeply grateful for the time I’ve spent in seminary.

Was there a single person who greatly influenced your decision to become a priest? I would point to two priests in particular: Father Frank Canfield, SJ, who was a spiritual mentor and father to me in high school, even before I was Catholic; and Father Pat Egan, who has guided me spiritually and accompanied me as a friend, particularly in the early stages of this journey.

What message would you pass along to those who want to serve God but do not know how? I would encourage them heartily to give some sort of religious vocation a try! I think that the culture of “discernment” nowadays can at times be crippling. People of my generation seem to be waiting too eagerly for a sort of knock-down sign that they have a vocation. The Church, in her wisdom, however, has seminaries and novitiates in place precisely to help with this process. 

How has being a deacon the last few years influenced the type of priest you will be? I think my diaconal service has clarified for me the core of priestly ministry: liturgical service and works of charity. First and foremost as a priest, I will celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Church’s Liturgy, for the glory of God and the sanctification of his people. Also, and flowing from this service, I will strive to serve all people who come into my life with the humble charity of Christ himself. 

Father Robert Crowley Bacik

Robert Crowley Bacik’s home parish is Queen of the Miraculous Medal in Jackson. 

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How did you know you were called to the priesthood? Since I was very small, thoughts of the priesthood would come to me. After college, I worked for five years as a youth minister and the thought was even more intense, so I started talking to some people. I also attended a conference called Catholics on Call, designed to help anyone discern a call of service to the Church. I eventually understood I needed to be in the seminary to figure things out. When I told my parents my decision, I had an incredible sense of peace that continued to grow as I worked through each step. Ultimately, I realized not only was God calling me, but I wanted to be a priest.

What has seminary preparation been like for you? Seminary is completely unique, as you are with a diverse group of men who are all trying to discover the will of Christ in their lives. It has been a blessing to set six years of my life aside to focus on my relationship with Christ. It has also been challenging in that it is away from the parish and the people. We come here because we feel called to serve the people and yet we are separated from them. This is hard and necessary.

How has being a youth minister impacted your vocation? I view my time as a youth minister as part of my formation. I think youth ministry is one of the places the Church is most alive right now. I learned a lot and will continue to learn from the enthusiasm, excitement and openness of our young people. I also had a great pastor who modeled what a constructive relationship between a pastor and employee is like. He taught me to recognize how lay people and staff need to be supported and given permission to offer their gifts within the Church as well.

What are your thoughts about beginning priestly life? It is a little surreal. I am anxious to get started. I have been preparing a long time, yet have no idea what it will be like. Seminary has helped me trust more fully in God and I am excited to see where the Lord is going to take me

 

 

Father David Michael Fons

David Michael Fons is an Ann Arbor native who attended Christ the King during his formative years.

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How did you know you were called to the priesthood? In prayer one time, I told God that I wouldn’t consider being a priest without a clear sign from him. While on a youth retreat my junior year of high school, during adoration, my pastor started speaking about the priesthood. As he spoke, I felt my heart being drawn to the Eucharist on the altar and I started weeping. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and desire to give God my life.

What has seminary preparation been like for you? God has deepened my desire for the priesthood and given me a whole new grounding of himself. He has shown me more love. This has been a time of drawing closer to the Lord and a desire to bring the Eucharist to the people. I’ve also fallen in love with the Church in a deeper way, seeing the beauty and history of God dwelling with his people throughout history.

Has anyone in particular influenced your decision? My parish pastor, Father Ed Fride, from Christ the King. He has been my pastor since childhood. He is joyful, and one who emphasizes knowing God and living in the Holy Spirit. When I felt called, he was the first person I talked to.

How has being a deacon had an impact on your vocation? Being a deacon and trying to live out the call has refreshed my consciousness that we are called to really serve by laying down our lives. Serving at Mass is a very humbling experience, and so exciting being that close to the Lord.  

What advice do you have for discerning a vocation?  Focus on God’s primary vocation to know and love him and grow in holiness. From that relationship, he will begin to show you a way to say “yes” to a full commitment of whatever he calls you to. If finding God is a challenge, ask him to show himself to you and he will.

How do you feel about ordination?  A lot of excitement and weight at the magnitude of this challenge; the way my life will dramatically change that day; a sense of unworthiness, yet God is still calling me to it; and to trust God and not myself.