Father Shireman passes on engineering career for the priesthood

| May 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

Discovering his gifts as an engineer made answering a call to the priesthood all the more difficult for Father Matthew Shireman.

Father Matthew Shireman

As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, he was affirmed in the good work he likely would have done in his career when a professor pulled him aside to tell him how well he had scored on an exam. But he was “feeling drawn more and more to the beauty of the Church and the faith,” said Father Shireman, 31.

But, “I’m still wired as an engineer,” he added.

Father Shireman was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at 10 a.m. Mass May 26 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, along with three other men: Fathers Aric Aamodt, Colin Jones and Toulee Peter Ly. He believes he’ll especially bring his creativity and problem-solving skills to administrative tasks in his ministry.

Father Shireman grew up in Minnetonka with his parents, Mark and Annette, his brother, Andrew, and his sister, Molly. He attended Minnetonka public schools while a parishioner of St. Therese in Deephaven. There, he was involved in the choir, summer camps, mission trips and taught catechism with his father for one year.

In 2004, he enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During that time, some of his friends were discerning the priesthood and religious life. That’s when he thought about the priesthood for the first time.

“Every Catholic young man should consider it, at least,” Father Shireman said.

Being involved in campus ministry at Marquette, he got to know “joyful priests” and first learned about daily Mass and eucharistic adoration, which became more important during his college years. For the last two years of college, he lived in a Catholic household, and at one point he explored becoming a Jesuit. He describes his discernment to the priesthood as a gradual process.

After graduating from Marquette with a degree in civil engineering, Father Shireman considered applying to seminary, but felt more drawn to graduate school, which he began in 2009 at MIT. The following year, he attended a discernment weekend retreat in the Archdiocese of Boston and attended the next year as well.

“It was helpful to see that seminarians weren’t too different from myself,” he said.

After graduating from MIT with a master’s of science in transportation, he got a job in Cleveland, Ohio, scheduling buses and trains. At the same time, he was applying to seminary. Recalling the retreat experiences solidified his desire to enter seminary, which he began in fall 2011 at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul.

Even with a history of managing an extensive workload as a researcher, Father Shireman found that life as a seminarian was more difficult than his MIT stint because he had to balance studying, teaching parish responsibilities, meetings and even prayer. But he was comforted being among other men who wanted to devote their lives to the Church and to God.

“I truly believe that [seminary rector] Msgr. [Aloysius] Callaghan and other priest formators and the staff there, they really care about us,” he said. “They really want what’s best for the Church and for us.”

During seminary, he spent a month teaching English at a Catholic university in South Korea, where he said he saw a “vibrant and growing Church.” He also spent a week in Guadalajara, Venezuela, to sharpen his Spanish-speaking skills. Locally, he served at Holy Family in St. Louis Park and did door-to-door evangelization at St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony.

Father Shireman said the greatest lesson he learned from his classmates was how to be a good friend. With Fathers Paul Baker, Nicholas Froehle, Matthew Quail and Benjamin Wittnebel — all ordained last year — they recently started a clergy fraternity group that meets monthly for prayer, conversation and meals.

“To be proactive about maintaining and strengthening friendships, especially with friends who are priests or will be priests” [is important], he said.

Delaying his priestly ordination for a year — he was ordained a transitional deacon in 2016 — allowed him to spend a “pastoral year” working at St. Stephen in Anoka, an experience he said has been the most influential in preparing him for the priesthood. Regularly, he’d assist people who came to the church from off the street seeking assistance. He also taught sixth-grade religion class at the parish school.

His pastoral work has extended beyond the parish to include ministering to people with disabilities, people in troubled marriages, and the elderly and homebound, “who have given a lot to the Church but can feel isolated,” he said of the latter. He most looks forward to administering the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick, and celebrating daily Mass.

Dubbed the “seminary bracketologist” during the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Father Shireman avidly follows sports, and plays soccer, basketball and ultimate Frisbee.


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