Parents of future priest say they don’t fit the mold

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | May 23, 2015 | 0 Comments
Lori and Tom McKenzie pose with their son, Deacon T.J. McKenzie, upon his ordination to the transitional diaconate in May 2014. He’ll be ordained a priest for the archdiocese with six other men May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.  Photo courtesy of the McKenzies

Lori and Tom McKenzie pose with their son, Deacon T.J. McKenzie, upon his ordination to the transitional diaconate in May 2014. He’ll be ordained a priest for the archdiocese with six other men May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Photo courtesy of the McKenzies

Tom and Lori McKenzie like to go to rock concerts and watch Minnesota Wild games, and they’re not sure they act much like the parents of a future priest.

“We don’t fit the stereotype of priests’ parents — whatever they think, we’re not that,” said Tom as the couple relaxed with a beer on the deck of their Maple Grove home on a recent May evening. Their son, Deacon Thomas (T.J.) McKenzie, is one of seven men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

It’s not clear whether Tom and Lori, members of St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park, are “typical” priest’s parents, but there’s no doubt they’ve been involved and supportive of their son and other seminarians at the St. Paul Seminary throughout his six years there. In the process, the couple says they’ve grown in their own faith.

As ordination approaches, along with their daughter and two other sons, they look forward to having a priest in their close-knit family, though they doubt it will change much.

The McKenzies have few visible signs of the faith in their home, but they’ve tried to pass on lasting values, Tom said.

“In our house, we don’t have religious icons everywhere,” he said. “Doing the right thing and leading a good life were probably the most important things we wanted to preach to the kids, and T.J. kind of followed that perfectly.”

When Deacon McKenzie was in grade school, Lori remembers bringing up the idea of priesthood.

“I think it was always in the back of his mind,” she said. “He had that calling, but it just wasn’t there yet.”

From the time their children were small, the couple encouraged them to find their calling, but didn’t force them, Tom said. “This is just kind of a natural progression for [him].”

Deacon McKenzie’s sister, Cortney, who lives in Dayton, Ohio, said he was her first friend. “I definitely was in his shadow,” she said. “It made me a better person. I wouldn’t have asked for anything different.”

While considering seminary, Deacon McKenzie also applied to study physical therapy — also Cortney’s field.

“He would have been a great [physical therapist], but definitely being a priest he’ll be able to do more work through God’s hands in that realm and use more of his talents,” she said.

The McKenzies had no qualms about their son going to seminary, but they wanted to make sure he was ready.

Lori found peace at a seminary Mass during Deacon McKenzie’s first year. “Just being there with all those boys, hearing them singing, I just had this peace come over me that that was where he’s supposed to be,” she said. “I thought to myself that I’m giving him over to God.”

Tom and Lori have learned from what their son shares about the faith. “We’re always learning something new,” Lori said. “Sometimes I don’t know if I’m holy enough to be a priest’s mom.”

They often attend seminary liturgies and events, said Lori, who is known as “the cookie mom” because she brings treats. “We just wanted to be there and be involved with him.”

When the couple travels, they now explore Catholic churches. “Now, no matter where we are on either a Saturday night or a Sunday, we’ll find a church to go to,” Lori said, adding that they always pray for their son and seminarians.

In August, the future Father McKenzie will preside at his brother Riley’s wedding. “We expect that he’s going to have an awesome homily and will do a wonderful job at my brother’s wedding,” Cortney said.

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Category: Ordinations