Why did I choose SJV? Big brother was my guide

| October 23, 2014 | 0 Comments
From left, St. John Vianney College Seminary students Lee Koenigsknecht, Dominic Shovelain and Zach Sandquist all say their older brothers played a role in their decision to come to SJV. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

From left, St. John Vianney College Seminary students Lee Koenigsknecht, Dominic Shovelain and Zach Sandquist all say their older brothers played a role in their decision to come to SJV. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Three men at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul have older brothers who have gone through seminary. Three of them are now priests, and one is at the St. Paul Seminary working toward ordination to the priesthood.

The three SJV men — Dominic Shovelain, Lee Koenigsknecht and Zach Sandquist — described the influence of their older brothers on the journey that led them to SJV.

Dominic Shovelain, freshman at SJV
Home parish: St. Michael in St. Michael
Parents: Jim and Marie Shovelain
Older brother: Father Paul Shovelain, ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2014

“Being the youngest of five children, my older siblings had a big role in forming me as I grew up . . . . I looked up to them a lot. And, one of the things that Paul influenced me to do was, when he was in high school and I was in third or fourth grade, we’d go to Mass on Tuesday nights at our parish.

We got to spend time together. He helped show me how prayer can be more than just within the family and within the Catholic school we went to. We can make prayer our own, and he sought to make time for God and to spend time with God outside of what our family expected. So, going to Mass on Tuesday nights with him growing up was something I enjoyed.”

Lee Koenigsknecht, sophomore at SJV
Home parish: Most Holy Trinity in Fowler, Mich. (Diocese of Lansing)
Parents: Brian and Agnes Koenigsknecht
Older brothers: Fathers Todd and Gary Koenigsknecht (twins), ordained priests for the Diocese of Lansing in 2014

“[My brothers] had quite a big impact. I remember distinctly when they left, I was in sixth grade. . . . It was pretty hard to ignore the fact that I had two brothers in seminary. It got me really thinking about it. And, I started praying about it gradually.

When I was a freshman [in high school], I went and visited Gary where he was staying at a parish for the summer. It was his last day at the parish. I think he was leading morning prayer.

Afterward, I saw this great, loving relationship between him and with the people there, this awesome interplay where he just built that bond. I was like, ‘I want that. There’s something really special about that.’

There was a transformation in Todd and Gary just going through seminary. They started out as these shy guys, but turned into these gregarious people who are very engaging and loving.

When they came back for the summer, I wondered, ‘How are these guys so great? They work hard on the farm, they’re happy doing it, they like going to Mass every morning, going to holy hour every morning. How on earth do they do that? It’s amazing. ‘It just really challenged me. It’s like, ‘I need to step up, there’s something to do here.’”

Zach Sandquist, junior at SJV
Home parish: St. Boniface in St. Bonifacius
Parents: Dave and Mary Sandquist
Older brother: Tim, Theology II student at the St. Paul Seminary

“Growing up, Tim was basically my best friend. I would follow him everywhere, I would do everything he did . . . . I looked up to him as an older brother. So, when he told us that he was going to join the seminary, immediately, my first thoughts were I’m going to lose my brother.

But, I warmed up to the idea, and praise God that he made this decision because I was able to see firsthand the fruits of the seminary.

That first break when he came home, I just saw him so much more joyful and so much more giving with his time and energy.

Along with that, there were family events and visits to the seminary that I went to because he was there. I would never have gone on those visits or Team Vianneys or anything like that if he wasn’t there. Immediately, I saw their joy and their sacrifice, and their desire to talk to [you], to help you in whatever way they can.

I especially saw that the first day when Tim moved in. It took one trip to get everything moved up to the fifth floor. All these men just helped right away. They all got him settled in. I was able to see his room and say goodbye.

I not only saw the fruits, but the building. I think that’s very important. So, you can imagine yourself going there: ‘Maybe I can do this.’ It’s not so intimidating once you take those first steps in the building.”

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