Priest’s question sparked Father Aamodt’s vocation journey

| May 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

As a teenager attending St. Odilia in Shoreview during the late 2000s, Father Aric Aamodt had been approached by then-parochial vicar Father Nels Gjengdahl with a surprising question after Mass.

Father Aric Aamodt

“Have you ever thought about being a priest?” he recalled Father Gjengdahl asking him. “I laughed at him and said ‘no,’ but that question was the seed.

Once it was there, I could never get it out of my head.”

Father Aamodt was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at 10 a.m. Mass May 26 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, along with three other men: Fathers Colin Jones, Peter Toulee Ly and Matthew Shireman.

What Father Aamodt calls the “seed of the vocation” led him to wrestle with the thought of priesthood in prayer. He said the question would even annoy him.

“Eventually, I just reached a deal with God,” Father Aamodt said. “I said, ‘God, I don’t really want to be a priest, but if you want me to be a priest, let me know, and I’ll do it.”

Father Aamodt thought he got off the hook when he didn’t get any clear sign during his senior year at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills. He continued with his plans to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth for pre-medicine and then go to medical school to become a doctor.

Then, he had a profound spiritual experience on a trip to the North Shore during the summer before his freshman year at UMD. He went with a group to the Split Rock Lighthouse during the trip, a retreat that required time for silence.

Father Aamodt stood on a rock on the edge of Lake Superior to pause and enjoy the scenery — the clouds and the crashing waves. He felt inspired to pray. It started with simply thanking God for the beauty of creation around him, but then moved to a strong sense of needing to ask the Lord directly about his plan for his life.

“Once I asked that question, I felt this overwhelming presence just completely surrounding me and completely filling me,” Father Aamodt said. “I can’t describe what the presence was like other than it was this amazing resonance. And in the midst of this presence, I both felt and heard the quietest whisper come across my right ear, and the sound of the whisper cut straight to the depth of my heart, and all the whisper said was ‘yes.’”

Surprised, Father Aamodt then remembered his vocation prayer in high school: “Let me know, and I’ll do it.” He said he decided to accept God’s call and say “OK, I’ll do it.”

“Then right after that, I was filled with just an immense joy and an immense peace, like I actually started to laugh I was just filled with such joy,” Father Aamodt said.

He soon met with Father Peter Williams, who was the director of vocations for the archdiocese, to apply for seminary. Because of the rapidly approaching school year, Father Williams asked Father Aamodt to wait at least a semester and still attend UMD since he had already enrolled there.

Father Aamodt said his time at UMD and the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry helped him deepen his faith and vocational journey. Newman chaplain Father Mike Schmitz, also an inspiration in Father Aamodt’s vocation journey, encouraged him to study for the Diocese of Duluth.

“But to no avail. I already submitted the application for the archdiocese,” Father Aamodt quipped.

Father Aamodt described his time in seminary as a time to “give myself over to formation.” He attended St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul where he earned undergraduate degrees in philosophy and Catholic Studies. He then earned a master of divinity at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul.

Father Aamodt’s college seminary formation took him to Rome for a semester with the University of St. Thomas Catholic Studies program. He said Jesuit Father Joseph Carola in the Rome program had a great influence on him.

Father Aamodt said his transition to major seminary at the St. Paul Seminary was challenging because he was first asked to complete a spirituality year, during which he focused more on human and spiritual formation and less on academics. It also meant joining a new ordination class. His year concluded with a life-changing eight-day silent retreat at Creighton University’s priestly formation program in Omaha, Nebraska.

“All the work that I had done in formation leading up to that summer, the Lord just took it and ran with it and just completely transformed my mind and my heart,” Father Aamodt said. “Through the challenge came a great grace because through that sort of passion came a wonderful resurrection moment.”

Besides his major seminary studies, Father Aamodt served at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka for the teaching parish program and had summer assignments at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings. He also learned Spanish at Divine Mercy in Faribault, which has a Latino community.

Spiritually, Father Aamodt said he likes Ignatian meditation but also feels drawn to Carmelite contemplation. He said the imagination of Ignatian meditation draws him into the events of Christ’s life, and Carmelite contemplation helps him converse with the Lord.

Father Aamodt looks forward to hearing confessions and celebrating Mass. A retreat experience in Rome with Father Carola helped him to appreciate administering the sacrament of reconciliation in particular.

“He just opened up the awesomeness of the priestly life — just the fact that the people of God entrust themselves to us to lead them to Jesus [and] to give them Jesus’ grace,” Father Aamodt said. “Especially after we’ve had our practice confessions, that was a more tangible moment of realizing, ‘Wow, people are entrusting their hearts and souls to me, and now I’m holding it here together with Jesus.’”

Because of his previous public speaking experiences, Father Aamodt looks forward to preaching more homilies. He competed at state in speech and debate while at Mounds View, coached high school speech while at UMD and had major roles in the seminary’s theater productions, such as playing Hamlet.

“I’ve gotten a lot of great reviews for my homilies,” Father Aamodt said. “I love preparing homilies, spending the time in prayer. I love giving the homilies. It’s one of the areas where I feel most alive.”

His father, Michael, still lives in Shoreview. His mother, Lu’Anne, died a couple days after Father Aamodt’s birth. He also has two older siblings.

In his free time, Father Aamodt enjoys hiking, playing guitar and piano, writing, acting, music movies and sports — especially soccer and broomball. He also played and umpired baseball. He avidly reads JRR Tolkien’s works, adding that he’s on his ninth reading of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

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