Father VanHoose’s vocation netted through national ministry in West St. Paul

| May 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

Father Chad VanHoose at his ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul May 27. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father Chad VanHoose, 34, had every intention of serving only one year with NET Ministries after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University in 2005 with a nursing degree.

“I was going to just do that for a year, and then, see what happened, whether that was go back to nursing or to enter seminary or to do something else,” Father VanHoose said.

That lone year turned into seven with the West St. Paul-based ministry.

Seminary didn’t have the strong draw at the time he packed his single bag for NET. Father VanHoose said he had “inklings” about priesthood growing up, but a seminary visit during high school had convinced him that it wasn’t right for him.

Father VanHoose grew up in South Shore, Kentucky, with his parents, Paul and Julie VanHoose, and his two older sisters. Faith played a significant role in the family’s life, and Father VanHoose attended 13 years of Catholic school in neighboring Portsmouth, Ohio, across the river from South Shore.

He first thought about priesthood as early as age 5 or 6, Father VanHoose said, and the idea “came and went” over the years.

He had positive experiences in church and stayed involved during college. His involvement with campus ministry helped him develop habits of prayer, but his “good experiences of Christian witness and Catholic faith” from others in his life especially moved him.

“That’s what prompted me at the end of college” to do NET, Father VanHoose said. “I wasn’t sure if nursing was the thing.”

Father VanHoose joined NET in 2005, but he didn’t travel the country as most “Netters” do, holding retreats for middle and high school youths. Instead, he became part of the ministry’s first parish team at Divine Mercy in Faribault.

The nationwide ministry focuses on evangelizing teens, helping them form a relationship with Jesus and building leadership teams to continue NET’s work after the team leaves the parish.

He stayed with NET after the 2005-2006 school year and continued as a staff member for six years. “I feel that I have kind of a head start in being a lay minister in a parish,” Father VanHoose said.

Father VanHoose said that through NET that he “really started forming good habits — daily holy hour, daily Mass, Christian community, rosary, spiritual reading [and] spiritual direction.”

Getting involved in his adopted home parish of St. Joseph in West St. Paul became instrumental in that journey, particularly daily Mass. He still made it there before work each day when he commuted from the Macalester-Groveland area of St. Paul.

The question of priesthood kept coming up as he dedicated time to prayer. He described the intensity of the call growing as “stirrings in my heart and just a firm draw to the priesthood” during several holy hours he made in 2010.

It helped that he could talk with two good seminarian friends at the time, both who came to the archdiocese from other parts of the U.S. through NET.

Father Brian Park from Texas and Father Kyle Kowalczyk from Michigan became priests in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

“It was easier for me to say ‘yes’ with friends in the seminary,” Father VanHoose said.

However, entering seminary meant leaving life as he had known it. He had planned to stay with NET long term and start graduate school with an Ave Maria University distance learning program.

“I remember in my NET office talking with Father Kyle, who was in seminary at that time,” Father VanHoose recalled. “I was like, ‘I think this is happening ­­seriously now.’”

Father VanHoose took then-vocations director Father Peter Williams’ advice of “at least giving it a shot [and] that there was nothing to be lost in seeking it,” he recalled.

Eventually, “My heart was conquered,” Father VanHoose said.

His teaching parish was Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. He also served at St. Hubert in Chanhassen during January term at the seminary, and he ministered as a transitional deacon at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul last summer.

As a priest, Father VanHoose looks forward to “just being a [spiritual] father, to have a people that would call me their father and that I would have a people to love,” he said.

He has considerable interest and experience in both youth and young adult ministry, and he also wants to grow men’s ministry.

Ordination day concluded the steps to the priesthood for Father VanHoose, who recognized the simplicity of the choice presented for years.

“I really only had to crack the door of my heart open just a little bit,” he said, “and then came out just a lot of peace and confirmation.”

Father VanHoose will be ministering as parochial vicar of All Saints in Lakeville.

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