Texan says, ‘Holy Spirit lassoed my heart’

| May 23, 2013 | 2 Comments

ParkDeacon Brian Park

Age: 32

Hometown: Ft. Worth, Texas / West St. Paul

Home parish: St. Joseph, West St. Paul

Parents: Paul and Mary Kay Park

Education: B.A. in history from Texas A&M University

Teaching parish: St. Agnes in St. Paul

Pastoral learning experiences: NET Ministries (2003-07); Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Neb. (summer 2009); CPE at the V.A. Medical Center in Minneapolis (summer 2010); Spanish immersion in Guadalajara, Mexico (summer 2011); deacon summer assignment at Divine Mercy in Faribault (summer 2012)

Hobbies: College football (especially Texas A&M football!), watching movies

Favorite book: “Life of Christ” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Favorite movie: “Braveheart”

Person you most admire and why: St. Paul, because of his great love for Jesus Christ and his tremendous zeal for souls and for spreading the Gospel

Thanksgiving Mass: 9 a.m. May 26 at St. Joseph in West St. Paul

What led to your looking seriously into the priesthood?
I first began sensing a possible call from the Lord to be a priest when I was 19 years old (sophomore in college). The year before, when I was 18 and a freshman in college, I had a powerful conversion experience one Sunday at Mass at my home parish in Ft. Worth, Texas.

At the time, I was not doing a very good job of living out my faith, but that Sunday, the Lord really broke through to me in a powerful way. I experienced the Lord and his love for me and his desire to be in relationship with me in a way that I had never experienced before.

After that Mass was over, all I knew was that I wanted to follow Jesus, and come to know him more and more. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this newfound desire to follow Jesus would lead me one day to become a priest in the Twin Cities (I don’t think I even knew what the term “Twin Cities” meant nor did I know where they were located when I was 18!).

After this powerful encounter with the Lord, I began to get active in my faith and strove to leave sinful behaviors behind. I joined a Christian fraternity, I began going to daily Mass on occasion, I started praying daily and began to read and study the Scriptures, I read books on Catholic apologetics and theology, I frequently went to confession, and I did my best to share my faith with other students on campus.

I can’t remember a specific day or a specific conversation that helped me first think about becoming a priest. All I can say is that somewhere around this time in my life, the Holy Spirit “lassoed” my heart and slowly began to pull me in the direction toward priesthood.

During my time in college, I received a lot of great advice and help from the priests at St. Mary’s in College Station, Texas (the campus ministry parish for Texas A&M University, where I went to school) about life as a seminarian and as a priest.
I was greatly blessed to be at a campus parish that was (and still is) very active and did a lot (and still does) to promote vocations to the priesthood. By the time I was a senior at Texas A&M (2002-03), I was pretty sure the Lord was calling me to go to seminary and study for priesthood. However, I knew that I wanted to take a year off from school to do some mission work before I started seminary for my home diocese of Ft. Worth, Texas.

So, during my senior year, I applied to serve with NET Ministries and was accepted for the 2003-04 year. Before I came to Minnesota to begin my training with NET in August 2003, I began the application process to become a seminarian for my home diocese of Ft. Worth with the intent that after my year of service with NET was over, I would start seminary in the fall of 2004. However, the Lord had a different plan.

During my year of service with NET, which was an incredible year of traveling around the nation with 10 other young Catholics and putting on evangelistic retreats for Catholic teenagers, the Lord made it quite clear to me that I needed to stay with NET longer. So, toward the end of my year on the road with NET, I applied to be a team supervisor for NET, and I was accepted.

In June 2004, I officially moved from Texas to West St. Paul to begin working full-time at NET’s headquarters. I had the great privilege of working for NET as a team supervisor for three years (2004-07). It was during these three years, living in the Twin Cities, when the Lord made it clear that he wanted me to stay in Minnesota and apply to become a seminarian for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In the fall of 2007, I entered the pre-theology program at the St. Paul Seminary, and I have never regretted it!

Were there any reasons why you had not considered the priesthood earlier in your life?
When I was growing up, I never heard anyone talk about it, and if they were, I sure was not listening. Also, I can’t remember anyone ever telling me that I should be a priest, or even encouraging me to think about the possibility. It was not until I had really met Jesus, and encountered his love in a personal way, and began to learn about the beauty of the Church that I ever considered becoming a priest.

What people and/or experiences were instrumental in identifying and developing your vocation?
My conversion experience; being around a great campus ministry and great priests at Texas A&M; my four years with NET Ministries and the thousands of young people I encountered on retreats, the members of my NET team, the people with whom I served on NET staff, and NET volunteers I served as a team supervisor; my parents; and many wonderful priests along the way.

What excites you most about becoming a priest?
The idea that my whole life will be dedicated to helping people come to know and love Jesus Christ and his Church; celebrating the sacraments; and preaching.

How would you like to answer the call to evangelization in your priestly ministry?
By looking at everything I do as a priest — whether sacramental celebrations or preaching or administration or counseling — as an opportunity to help people come to know and love Jesus Christ and his Church. The essence of my mission as a priest is to evangelize — to bring people to the Eucharist, to bring back Catholics who have fallen away, to help all men and women know of the great love that our Father in heaven has for us all.

What encouragement and/or advice do you have for young men who may be considering the priesthood?
“If some of you hear the call to follow Christ more closely, to dedicate your entire life to him, be generous, do not be afraid; the prize that awaits you is God himself. Young people who are listening to me now, always say yes to God.”
— Blessed John Paul II

You have nothing to fear in giving your whole life to Christ. He takes nothing away from us, only our sin. To follow Jesus Christ as one of his priests is a tremendous gift. Open your hearts to the possibility that the Lord might be calling you.

Trust in him, he will never lead you astray.

If you start to sense in your heart a possible call to the priesthood, tell someone about it — a priest, your parents, a trusted friend — and then do something about it. Pick up an application, go visit a seminary, talk to your vocations director, etc.

God cannot steer a parked car. You have to cooperate with him. Just start moving; he will guide your steps.

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Category: Ordinations