Catholic convert desires to make ‘real sacrifice’

| May 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

HoweAge: 26

Hometown: North Oaks

Home parish: St. Paul, Ham Lake

Parents: Jeffrey and Janette Howe

Education: B.A. in philosophy, Catholic Studies and classical languages from the University of St. Thomas / St. John Vianney Seminary, and bachelor’s degree in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, working on license in sacred theology at the Pontifical Lateran University with a focus on Church history

Teaching parish: I have spent extended time at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton and St. Stephen in Anoka

Pastoral learning experiences: Summer 2010 service with the Missionaries of Charity in Ethiopia, visits to Regina Coeli Prison and work with students at John Cabot University in Rome

Hobbies: Landscaping and other forms of “getting my hands dirty,” hiking, camping, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing, reading, dabbling in poetry and Gregorian chant

Favorite book: GK Chesterton’s “The Catholic Church and Conversion”

Favorite movie: Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo”

Person you most admire and why: Bishop Paul Dudley was one of the men most radically given over to the Lord that I have ever known. The great fruit of the Holy Spirit with which his life effused was joy. I am grateful that my family and I were able to come to know him during his last years.

Thanksgiving Mass: 10:30 a.m. May 26 at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton

What led to your looking seriously into the priesthood?
In August 2004, the summer before my senior year of high school, I was on a pilgrimage to England with the American Chesterton Society. It was one of my first extended times away from my family.

I was particularly enamored by the stories of the English martyrs, who became priests to bring the sacraments back to England, knowing that they would eventually be hunted down and put to death. Their witness spoke to me across the centuries.

It didn’t hurt that the vocation director from Worcester, Mass., was along on the trip. Our conversations along the way opened my ears to the possibility of the Lord’s call to the priesthood.

What were you doing before you entered the seminary?
I entered seminary right out of high school. I was able to attend the University of St. Thomas for my senior year of high school through the PSEO program. In large part, it was meeting the St. John Vianney seminarians on campus that drew me in. I was deeply inspired by their strength of fraternity and common sense of mission. I wanted to be a part of it.

Were there any reasons why you had not considered the priesthood earlier in your life?
I grew up going to North Heights Evangelical Lutheran Church, but began to experience a steady tug to learn about Catholicism. My maternal grandmother was a very devoted Catholic and my mother had rediscovered her own Catholic roots in 1999.

I, too, wanted to know what the Church was all about. In 2001, I decided to attend a series of classes on the fundamentals of the faith taught by Father Robert Altier. A few weeks in I knew there was no turning back. My dad and I were received into the Catholic Church and received our first Holy Communion and confirmation together on Dec. 13, 2001.

When was the first time you thought about the priesthood?
During my years growing up, I was never drawn to become a Protestant minister. And, yet, I can remember as a brand new Catholic recognizing that the Catholic priest was somehow different. He was a marked man; he spoke and acted in the person of Christ in the sacraments.

The priesthood had an appeal because there was real sacrifice — Christ’s sacrifice on the altar, and the priest’s sacrifice in laying down his life for the flock.

What people and/or experiences were instrumental in identifying and developing your vocation?
I would point in a special way to women religious in my life. My mother was serving as a nurse in the infirmary of the Good Shepherd Sisters, whose convent was near our home. I used to stop by the convent to visit my mom and began to get to know the elderly sisters, reading them poetry and listening to their stories.

They really prayed me through the seminary and showed me through the witness of their lives that fidelity to Christ’s call is possible by saying “yes” one day at a time.

Over the years, I have seen many of these dear sisters go to meet the Lord. I am forever grateful that I have been able to come to know them and many other religious sisters in the archdiocese and abroad.

What excites you most about becoming a priest?
To exist for the service of families. I love family life, and I praise God that as a priest I will be called to share in the joys and sorrows of so many families. I think all of my classmates could agree about how much we have come to appreciate marriage and family life. Our commitment to live chaste celibacy sets us apart to love with the breadth and generosity of the heart of Christ.

How would you like to answer the call to evangelization in your priestly ministry?
I am eager to encourage Catholics to explore the depths and riches of the heritage of the faith which is ours. I remember what it was like not to have the holy Eucharist and the sacrament of penance. I hungered for such a concrete encounter with Christ. My hope is that I can help people to realize the true gifts that these are for us. I believe the priest’s mission extends in a special way to those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith.

What encouragement and/or advice do you have for young men who may be considering the priesthood?
My encouragement is to be patient with the Lord’s call and with yourself. He wants your happiness more than anything. Desire holiness, but realize that it must be sought over a lifetime. Be willing to set aside your hopes for your own life in order to honestly consider (even for a moment) his plans for you. Be prepared to be surprised.

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Category: Ordinations