Looking for a ‘job that can impact lives,’ Father Theisen drawn to priesthood

| May 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

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

While working at a bank in St. Paul after graduating from the University of St. Thomas in 2011, Father Brandon Theisen thought he “had it all.”

Just two months after graduation, he chose to live in a St. Paul’s Outreach men’s household, and sharing a house with seven other men proved rich. Some of them were finishing school, others were launching careers and dating.
He thought that might be his future, too, but God intervened.

“I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life, and I was a little unsettled, a little not happy in that profession,” said Father Theisen, who majored in philosophy and Catholic Studies at St. Thomas. “After [spending] hours at the office, I realized I wanted a job that can impact lives. I wanted to be able to change lives. As I thought and prayed about that, seminary and the notion of priesthood kept popping back in my mind.”

It wasn’t a foreign concept. Father Theisen, the second oldest of Michael and Giovanna Theisen’s six children who grew up attending Epiphany in Coon Rapids, had spent three years at St. John Vianney College Seminary and contemplated priesthood during that time.

However, he decided to step away from SJV his senior year to explore other possibilities. One of them was dating, and he got into a serious relationship for six months, but he and the woman reached a mutual decision to break up.

“In the midst of our relationship, I realized I wasn’t 100 percent happy,” said Father Theisen, 28. “It was no fault of the girl’s, but there was just a little bit of that unsettlement.”

The influence of priests who had served at Epiphany while he was growing up came back into his thoughts. The good memories helped steer him onto the path toward his priestly vocation.

“I think seeing these young men as priests, and happy, was just a great witness to me,” he said. “All of those priests who came through Epiphany when I was younger helped [foster a vocation].”

One in particular was Father Bernard Reiser, long-time pastor of Epiphany who died in 2011. He was pastor of the parish from 1964 to 2001, and Father Theisen was impressed by the example he set.

“I loved Father Reiser — [a] great, holy man who worked himself to the bone,” Father Theisen said. “So, obviously, [he was] a great example of what a pastor should be.”

He hopes to set a similar example of service as he begins his ministry as a priest. Youth and energy are attributes he plans to bring to every parish he is assigned to serve. He wants to spend his time with the people in the parishes, and he hopes that time will include fun activities with youths.

And yet, in the midst of building relationships with parishioners, he also wants to find time to spend alone with God.

“I’m an extrovert. I enjoy being around [people],” he said. “But, when I pray, I actually really appreciate the silence. It’s easy for me to get distracted, so I appreciate the silence to pray.”

He has enjoyed the prayerful atmosphere at the St. Paul Seminary, and has spent many an hour praying in the chapel. Another takeaway has been the fraternity with his nine classmates. As one of the larger ordination classes in recent years, it has produced a rich diversity of personalities and gifts, he noted.

“My classmates have taught me — they’re all talented and gifted men — that we all bring different gifts to the table, and no gift is better than another,” he said. “So, one may be more athletic than another, one may be more intellectual than another, and one may be more pastoral than another, and one may be holier than another.

“[It’s important] to realize that God has given all of us these different individual gifts to build up his kingdom, so I shouldn’t be jealous of my brother who’s more intellectual than myself, or a brother who’s holier than myself — to rejoice in their gifts and their talents to build up the kingdom of God.”

Father Theisen believes it is important to learn from his fellow priests, which is why he carries advice they have given him over the years. One piece sounds simple, but has been especially meaningful to him:

“Pray as you can, not as you can’t. In your mission, always realize that you’re rooted in Jesus Christ. If you’re not, if you’re missing your prayer . . .  you start losing your identity.”

Father Theisen will be ministering as parochial vicar of Divine Mercy in Faribault.

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