Well-timed letter helps forge path to vocation

| May 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

PetersonDeacon James Peterson

Age: 27

Hometown: Minnetonka

Home parish: St. Hubert, Chanhassen

Parents: Jim and Ann Peterson

Education: B.A. in theology from St. John’s University, Collegeville

Teaching parish: Immaculate Heart of Mary, Minnetonka

Pastoral learning experiences: Clinical pastoral education at the Mayo Clinic in the summer of 2010; Spanish-immersion experience in Guadalajara, Mexico in the summer of 2011; diaconate-summer placement at the archdiocesan mission parish of Jesucristo Resucitado in Venezuela during the summer of 2012

Hobbies: Bowling, board games, frisbee golf, following the professional world of track and field, watching “The Simpsons,” jogging, and playing soccer

Favorite book: “The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It” by Neal Bascomb

Favorite movie: “Chariots of Fire”

Person you most admire and why: Our pontiff emeritus, Benedict XVI, is a man of faith for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. His joyful witness to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and his reverential celebration of the Church’s liturgies have been inspirational for my own vocational journey. His consistent emphasis on proclaiming the truth with charity in his vast writings and many addresses has been a powerful encouragement for me of authentic Christian discipleship.

Thanksgiving Masses: 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. May 26 at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka; 10:30 a.m. June 2 (Mass of Corpus Christi) at St. Hubert in Chanhassen

What led to your looking seriously into the priesthood?
Three pivotal life experiences led me to seriously consider the Catholic priesthood: Receiving a letter from the associate pastor of my home parish when I was just 10 years old, encouraging me to prayerfully consider a priestly vocation; attending a Calling of St. Andrew Dinner at the archbishop’s residence when I was 15 years old and witnessing the joys of diocesan priesthood; and participating in the wedding of my twin sister, Renée, when we were just 21 years old, seeing that a lifelong vocational discernment could be made freely and peacefully.

What were you doing before you entered the seminary?
Before entering the St. Paul Seminary, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in theology from St. John’s University in Collegeville. In addition to competing on the track and field team, working as a student ambassador for the Office for Institutional Advancement and studying Spanish, I also was involved in a men’s discernment group that met on a weekly basis. This helped me to realize that other men my age were also prayerfully considering what was God’s plan for their lives.

Were there any reasons why you had not considered the priesthood earlier in your life?
When I reached the end of my four years at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, I was wrestling with the decision of where to go for ongoing education. While there were tugs on my heart to attend St. John Vianney College Seminary on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, I was also strongly considering St. John’s University.

Uncertain as to where I should go, I put the question to Father Bob Thurner, a good priest friend of my family. He had been a “lifer,” meaning he had attended high school seminary, college seminary, and the St. Paul Seminary for his priestly studies. I was a little surprised when he advised me to go up to St. John’s for at least one year, so that I could have life experience outside of a seminary setting.

Father Thurner told me that if God was calling me to the priesthood, the time that I spent in Collegeville would help me to have a more grounded understanding of the world around me. Instead of one great year, I spent four blessed years in the Land of the Johnnies, and I do believe it has positively contributed to my vocational journey.

When was the first time you thought about the priesthood?
I was about 7 years old the first time that I thought about the priesthood. Sunday Mass had just concluded and my family lingered within the church to talk with some of our friends. Feeling particularly bold that morning, I wandered into the sanctuary, walked past the altar, and then sat down in the celebrant’s chair.

While I thought this was pretty neat, my parents were mortified. With raised eyebrows and a concerned look on his face, my Dad exclaimed, “James, what are you doing? That’s where the priest sits. Get down from there!”

Just before leaving the presider’s chair I sat there in a poignant moment of transcendent thought as I engaged the idea of some day being a priest.

In God’s delightful sense of providential humor, my very first Mass of Thanksgiving as a priest will be celebrated in that same church community.

What people and/or experiences were instrumental in identifying and developing your vocation?
There have been dozens of people and thousands of experiences within my life that were instrumental in identifying and developing my vocation to the priesthood. Certainly at the forefront have been close family members, especially my parents. Both of them are converts to the Catholic faith and have consistently emphasized the importance of faith in all areas of life.

My four siblings — Sean, Renée, Sarah and Robert — have lovingly supported me and gently challenged me over the course of my 27 years of life to grow as a man of integrity, a brother of firm convictions, an uncle and godfather who allows the Lord to be at the center of his life, and a member of the family with a heart set on serving others with love.

During my formative years, the associate pastor of my home parish wrote me a letter inviting me to prayerfully discern a calling to the priesthood. This message came to me at a time when I was struggling to fit in at school; my grades were not great, I was taunted and bullied by my peers, and my outlook on life was not all that cheery.

Through that dark stretch of my vocational journey, my parents loved me and encouraged me to cast my cares upon our Heavenly Father and seek the help of our Blessed Mother Mary.

What excites you most about becoming a priest?
As a Catholic priest, I will be sacramentally consecrated to Jesus Christ. Participating in his priesthood, I will be able to celebrate those milestone moments of faith with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am most excited to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to instrumentally reconcile men and women with the Lord through the sacrament of reconciliation, to anoint the sick and homebound, and be a radical witness of Christ’s merciful love for the world.

How would you like to answer the call to evangelization in your priestly ministry?
It is one of my sincerest hopes for my priestly ministry to have a consistent way of life wherein I evangelize at the parish, in the grocery store and everywhere that I happen to be.

I will do my best to help people discover or “Rediscover” the Catholic faith through my words and actions. By being a prayerful man of hopeful confidence and loving trust in the Lord God, I will strive to evangelize others by the witness of a joyful life.

What encouragement and/or advice do you have for young men who may be considering the priesthood?
For those young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood, I would encourage you to be open to it, pray about it, and talk about it with someone you trust. Ideally it would be a pastor, but it could also be a youth minister, a teacher or even a coach.

Be a man of prayer, spending at least one hour a week before our eucharistic Lord Jesus during a time of perpetual adoration, sharing the depths of your heart with him who knows you and loves you.

Stay close to our Blessed Mother Mary through the rosary or another devotion. Finally, pay attention to the work of God in your life. He has orchestrated everything in your life as part of the Divine Conspiracy, that is to say, his providential plan for your ultimate happiness, peace and joy.

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Category: Ordinations