Trust, not certainty, guided Father Sandquist’s discernment

| May 30, 2017 | 1 Comment

Father Timothy Sandquist poses for a photo at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul May 27 with Father Joseph-Quoc Vuong, pastor of St. Boniface in St. Bonifacius, Father Sandqvist’s home parish. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father Timothy Sandquist enrolled as a freshman at South Dakota State University in 2008 expecting to graduate a mechanical engineer and eventually get married.

A year later, he left to join the seminary.

Father Sandquist didn’t give priesthood serious thought while growing up in Minnetrista. The second of Dave and Mary Sandquist’s three children, he wasn’t particularly involved at his parish, St. Boniface in St. Bonifacius. So, he was caught off-guard when the possibility of priesthood entered his mind just a month into his classes at SDSU in Brookings, South Dakota.

He was attending an engineering job fair when he started to feel “not quite at peace about my future,” he said. He went back to his dorm room to reflect, and priesthood popped into his mind, filling him with “excitement and joy.”

“It was a pretty big surprise,” said Father Sandquist, 27. “I was practicing my faith, however, I didn’t know a whole lot about the faith. I just had the basic knowledge from my CCD classes.”

As he reflected on the idea, the more it seemed to be a path to a rich and full life and an opportunity to be “with people at the most important moments of their life, whether good or bad,” he said.

Father Sandquist talked to a priest at the campus’ Newman Center and soon visited St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with a group of men. He then connected with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ vocations director, then Father Peter Williams, and made a second visit later that winter. He decided to apply, not because he was certain he should become a priest, but because he wanted to find out if that was his call.

Seminary was a “huge period of growth in faith and as a human being,” he said. After graduating in 2012, he still felt a desire for the priesthood, but took a break from seminary formation to serve with West St. Paul-based NET Ministries.

For a year, he traveled by van across the United States with other “Netters” to lead youth retreats. A quiet introvert, Father Sandquist seized the opportunity to overcome public speaking anxiety and embrace the ministry’s outgoing evangelization and relationship-building methods. He regularly gave the “send off” presentation, advising teenagers to pray, find Catholic fellowship, serve others and regularly receive the sacraments.

When he entered St. Paul Seminary in 2013, he wasn’t certain that he was called to priesthood, but he had confidence that he was on the right road, he said. He noted his “steady desire of the heart for priesthood” and relied on the guidance of his formators and spiritual directors.

“I’ve never had that certainty, and I’m OK with that, I have peace with that,” he said.

Shortly before his diaconate ordination, he was struck by words written by a priest who knew St. Teresa of Kolkata, aka Mother Teresa, and had asked her to pray for his clarity in his vocation. She told him no. The priest asked her why, since she seemed to have clarity about her own work. She said, “I’ve never had clarity, only trust.”

“That’s the way I see my vocation,” Father Sandquist said.

Father Sandquist said his experiences in his teaching parish, St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, and deacon assignment, St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, also affirmed his direction. He especially enjoyed visiting parishioners’ homes for dinner.

“There’s a lot of joy,” he said. “People usually tend to open up in those circumstances. They kind of let you into their lives, which is really cool.”

As a priest, he is most looking forward to administering the sacrament of reconciliation. He also likes youth ministry and teaching, which he attributes, in part, to his time with NET.

A musician who plays bass and acoustic guitar, Father Sandquist was involved in three of the seminary’s recent theater productions, first as a stagehand, then an actor. He also likes to rock climb — when he has the chance — and read theology. His favorite authors are Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and G.K. Chesterton. The best way he prays, he said, is through lectio divina, or contemplation of Scripture.

“I still do not consider myself good at it,” he said of lectio divina. “It takes a lot of practice, I think. Sometimes things will speak to me and stick out to me, and other times, nothing.”

That perseverance ties in with the best advice he’s received for priesthood: Never stop praying.

Father Sandquist will be ministering as parochial vicar of St. John the Baptist in Savage.


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