Two fathers helped nurture my vocation to the priesthood

| Father Troy Przybilla | January 3, 2012 | 1 Comment

New fishing event is one way to inspire others to become fishers of men

Father Troy Przybilla and his father, the late Ken Przybilla, caught their share of king salmon during a fishing trip on Lake Michigan in 2010. Photo courtesy of Father Troy Przybilla

This past year I lost two fathers.

I know that this isn’t the best way to begin an article on promoting vocations to the priesthood, but the two fathers that I lost were instrumental in my vocation.

Father Troy Przybilla

Growing up, I spent a lot of time on Mille Lacs Lake with my dad. Over the course of the years I learned how to fish, but I also learned important spiritual lessons for my life.

As I was discerning my “call” to the priesthood, I remember praying one day at my bedside, asking God to help me decide between all the career options in front of me and, more important, help me to know what he wanted me to do with my life.

I fell asleep and found myself at the counter of Tutt’s bait shop near Mille Lacs Lake. I was looking intently at a wide assortment of colored jigs when a voice came from behind the counter, “Which one do you want?” Without hesitation I said, “The one that catches the most fish.”

I immediately woke up and was reminded of Jesus’ call to Peter and the other fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Although I cannot say that I immediately left everything and followed our Lord, I realized that what I really wanted was to be a fisher of men — in other words to lead people to Christ.  And the best way that I discerned to do this was to be a priest. I remember when I told my dad that I wanted to be a priest, his words were, “More power to you.” He was always supportive and sometimes embarrassingly proud of his son.

Thankful for two fathers

My dad died of cancer just last May and, as hard as it was to watch my father suffer and die, I was always grateful for the gift of the priesthood because I was able to prepare my father, the one who gave me life, for eternal life. I couldn’t ask for anything more — or so I thought.

Just this last Christmas I was at home with my family celebrating for the first time without my dad. I attended the midnight Mass at my home parish of Epiphany in Coon Rapids and was asked if I would celebrate Mass on Christmas morning in the room of Father Bernard Reiser, who was very close to death.

This was a great honor and privilege but was also very humbling.

The reason for this was that Father Reiser was my lifelong pastor. He gave me new life when he baptized me on Jan. 13, 1974. Father Reiser taught me how to strive for holiness through his preaching and by his example. He nourished me with the body and blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. He reconciled me to God when I sinned. He helped me to discern the priesthood, he vested me at my ordination to the diaconate and he preached my first Mass.

Father Reiser was more than my pastor, he was my spiritual father. He was a constant and stable presence of God for me throughout my life.

And, now I, who had received so much from the consecrated hands of the man I called my spiritual father, was given the great opportunity to return the favor. Father Reiser inspired me to follow God’s call to be a priest, and now I was preparing him to follow our Lord’s call to come home. The man God used to give me new life in baptism was now being asked by me to renew his baptismal promises in the prayers of viaticum. I received the Eucharist from his consecrated hands Sunday after Sunday throughout my life, and after I had anointed the back of his already consecrated hands, he received from my hands, or rather my finger dipped in the Precious Blood, our Lord’s promise of eternal life.

Father Bernard Reiser was born into eternal life on Dec. 27. This was the feast of the beloved apostle, St. John. It also happened to be my birthday. I said a little prayer in the adoration chapel the night of his death that, for my birthday, I would like him to ask God to give me the grace to be a good and holy priest and spiritual father like he was to so many people.

Fishers of men

In my position as vocation director, I don’t experience the close spiritual fatherhood that a pastor experiences. Therefore, I am abundantly aware that the task of inspiring men to be fishers of men doesn’t rest on my shoulders. It’s the task of the biological and spiritual fathers of men.

As a result, I am starting new Fishers of Men fishing events in our archdiocese. My dad always told me to “fish where the fish are,” so I will be going on the road with this vocations promotion. (For more information about these events, call me at 651-962-6890.) The hope is that fathers and sons will sign up with their parish or be invited by their pastor and spiritual father to come to the event.

Young men respond to the fathers in their lives who teach and encourage them to mature and grow up to be fathers themselves. Whether this is biological or spiritual fatherhood is for their prayer and discernment.

Both of my fathers inspired me to follow our Lord’s call. My hope is that all fathers, including myself, will recognize our role of inspiring men to respond to our Lord’s invitation to become fishers of men.

Eternal rest grant unto Ken Przybilla and Father Bernard Reiser, O Lord. May they rest in peace.

Father Troy Przybilla is director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

National Vocation Awareness Week

The U.S. Catholic Church will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week Jan. 9 to 14. It is time dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education.

People can visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Facebook page ( during the week to see examples of clergy and religious. They also can view reflections under the Vocation Retreat tab where each day a Scripture passage, reflection and prayer will be posted.

Resources for promoting National Vocation Awareness Week, such as prayer cards, holy hour materials, prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes, are available on the USCCB vocations web page at — The Catholic Spirit

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Category: Vocations