Father Haverstock’s vocation inspired by priest’s surprise words on his confirmation day

| June 3, 2016 | 1 Comment
Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Part of a series of profiles of nine newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“You’re going to be a priest.”

Those words came suddenly from the mouth of a priest standing before Paul Haverstock, right before he smeared his forehead with chrism oil to confirm the young convert, then a senior at the University of Kansas.

After the liturgy, the priest — then the chaplain of the university’s Newman Center — apologized for the exclamation, which was out of his character. He explained that he had just been in Rome and prayed for vocations at the shrine of St. Philip Neri, and blurted out the words when he saw — because of a name tag — that Haverstock had chosen St. Philip Neri as his confirmation saint.

The priest’s words stuck with the new Catholic, and he began considering the priesthood as a viable option.

“Looking back now, I would say with a sense of confidence that that was the Holy Spirit working through him to give him a prophetic utterance in the moment to [tell me to] pursue a vocation to the priesthood,” Father Haverstock said. “It’s not that right then I knew or I decided, but . . . very often when I prayed after that, it was like a seed that started growing.”

An Eden Prairie native, Father Haverstock returned to the Twin Cities after graduation to attend law school at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. By the time he passed the bar, however, he was in formation at the St. Paul Seminary. He was ordained a priest May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

The son of Henry and Kim Haverstock, Father Haverstock, 32, is the oldest of three children raised in a devout Missouri Synod Lutheran home. His mother’s father is a retired Lutheran minister. He didn’t know any practicing Catholics, he said, until he met his college roommate in Lawrence, Kansas. That roommate, Jared Ostermann, was also a convert and answered Father Haverstock’s questions about the faith.

“Through conversations with him and the witness of his beautiful family . . . I came to understand what Catholics actually believe, and along the way was challenged in some of my Protestant assumptions,” he said.

The Catholic Church “made sense,” Father Haverstock said, and he became Catholic in 2006. His family was supportive, he said.

Despite his interest in seminary, he decided he needed more time to learn what it meant to be Catholic. He worked odd jobs in the Twin Cities for a year before entering law school in 2007. A parishioner of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, Father Haverstock liked his studies, but still felt pulled toward priesthood. He entered seminary in 2010, and after two years of studying philosophy, he was sent to Rome to attend the Pontifical North American College, where he would spend the next four years preparing for priesthood.

There he regularly visited the shrine of St. Philip Neri, as well as the burial places of numerous Catholic saints.

“You’re living with the saints when you’re living in Rome,” Father Haverstock said, adding that the experience connected him to the communion of saints in a special way.

Father Haverstock plans to return to Rome in the fall to finish a degree in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, but will serve as a parochial vicar of St. Hubert in Chanhassen through the summer.

Although he’s spent other summers serving at local parishes, including St. Joseph in West St. Paul and St. Hubert, he acknowledged that having studied for the priesthood outside the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis puts him at a slight disadvantage in knowing other priests and parishes, but it’s one he’s eager to overcome.

However, studying in Rome with American, Canadian and Australian seminarians has given him a unique perspective of the historic and universal Church, he said, as well as insight into the diverse Church within the United States.

In Rome, Father Haverstock was an assistant chaplain at Bambino Jesu, the Vatican children’s hospital. As a deacon, he assisted with weekend Masses and children’s faith formation at a U.S. Naval base in Naples.

“It’s like an American parish away from home, basically,” he said, adding that “really cool conversations” with parishioners were frequently part of his ministry there. “I hope to go back as a priest to celebrate Mass if they need extra help.”

Although he is confident in his vocation now, discernment was sometimes challenging, Father Haverstock said.

“I wanted God to just open up the heavens and come down to me and say, ‘By the way, you’re going to be a priest. I want you to do that.’ I would have said, ‘OK, great!’,” he said. “But instead, God used ordinary means through seminarian formators to help me discern his will, and just through prayer. And thanks be to God, he led me to a point where I was able to say ‘Yes, God, I trust that you are using these ordinary people in the Church to call me to be a priest.’”

He added advice he heard from his spiritual director in Rome: “’Sometimes God asks us to abandon the desire for certainty.’ That’s really stuck with me. I think that’s really powerful, because where there’s certainty, sometimes it’s difficult for there also to be that trust — especially that humble trust that God wants us to have.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda appointed Father Haverstock parochial vicar of the Church of Saint Hubert of Chanhassen.

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Category: Ordinations