success stories

Posted June 12, 2004

Book: God Still Calls: Vocation Stories of Real Seminarians
Author: Gerald J. Walsh
E.T. Nedder Publishing, Tucson, AZ, pp. 211

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

This book contains real stories of real seminarians told not only from the perspective of a Vocation Director, butfrom seminarians themselves.

This book is for all those who want to know what it is like today to be called to the Catholic Priesthood. It will be of interet to Catholics and others who want to hear from those who find themselves ready to serve the Church as Ordained Ministers. It will also be useful to Spiritual Directors, Confessors, Pastors, and Vocation Directors.

An Excerpt from the book:

I am David Richter, the sixth son and eight chld of fourteen children of Victor and Mary Richter. I grew up on a dairy farm 18 miles southeast of Bismarck, North Dakota. My father attended Crosier Seminary for five years, I believe, before discerning that God was calling him to the vocation of marriage.

Through his experience at the seminary, my father developed great friendships. He still maintains those friendships and keeps in contact with priest friends and those who left the seminary to marry. My mother attended a Catholic boarding school atRachardton, North Dakota. Her family has always been very religious. She had three uncles who became Benedictine priests and three aunts who became sisters in the same religious order. Thus, I was always in contact with those who had been called to religious vocations and was comfortable with that possibility for myself.

I remember, as a child, when my family would travel to Crosier Seminary in Minnesota for Dad's seminary reunions. It was then that I began to think of becoming a priest. But, like many thoughts of childhood days, it did not last long before something else would take its place, like playing basketball, football or billards.

I was a trusting child and became deeply hurt if anyone tried to have a laugh at my expense. I still recall some of those instances and it has been part of my personal growth to let go of them and forgive those who took part. This has been essential for me to learn to trust others and also trust God more deeply and have the grace to answer his call.

Growing up in my large family and needing to protect my self interest, I learned to be very competitive and independent. I was quite athletic and a good student. In the fourth grade I became very ill and ended up in the hospital. I was diagnosed with diabetes. It slowed me down for a while but I was not going to let this condition wreck my life so I faced it head on and was determined that I would not be labeled as "different." There were a few times in my life when this prove to be a poor idea and resulted in some humbling episodes of insulin shock. All in all, however, I mangage pretty well to live a normal life and even won the state class "A" wrestling championship in the 145-pound weight class in my senior year in high school.

I dated girls in high school and enjoyed partying with my friends, but during that time I also thought about my future. What should I do? I truly believed that it would be a good idea for me to check out the seminary like my father had done. I felt that it would be a good way for me to find out what God wanted me to do. But not yet! I wanted to go to college and study engineering first. So in the fall of 1989 I began my college work in pre-engineering at Bismarck State College.

I enjoyed colled and I liked the engineering field that I was studying. I lived and worked at home during my first two years of college. At the end of my first year my brother, Tom, told me that he was going to enter the seminary. I was happy for hm but at the same time it made my decision abit more uncertain. You see, I did not want to be overshadowed by Tom. There was a part of me that was pleased that he was entering the seminary first. He could sort of pave the way and discover the difficulties so that I could avoid them later.

There was another part of me --- that old independent streak --- that wanted to be the one to make the big decision on my own without any direct influence from Tom or anyone else. During this time, Tom and I sort of drifted apart. Maybe it was because he was in the seminary and following a new path. Maybe it was because I needed to separate myself from his vocation in order to be more free to make my own decision. At any rate, on one occasion, he and I got into a heated argument and I felt hurt by some of the things he said to me. It took me back to the early years of my life, being hurt and misunderstood, and so I decided then not to trust anyone, not to share my struggles because I did not want to be vulnerable.

After two years of college in Bismarck, I transferred to NDSU in Fargo in the fall of 1991 to study industrial engineering. At the end of the year, Tom finished philosophy and I was hired for a six month internship at Polaris LP Company in Roseau, Minnesota, as a student engineer. I was helping to manufacture snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles. That summer at Polaris was a good experience and at the same time a difficult one.

At the time I was dating a beautiful girl who was the oldest of a family of thirteen children who live on a dairy farm in Minnesota. We had a lot in common. I was working in my field of study which I enjoyed, but I had committed myself to give the seminary an honest look. At the end of the summer I returned to Fargo, and my decision still was not clear.

I learned of a new program at Cardinal Muench Seminary, Fargo, which allowed a person to live at the seminary with no commitment, and work or attend classes at the local university. It was a way to test one's vocation. I decided to enter the Vianney Program, as it was called, and so in January of 1993, I began to live at the seminary. It was like being a seminarian in action but not in name. I knew that I wanted to go to the seminary to allow God to show me where he wanted me to be. I hoped that after one semester or one year I would find taht he didn't want me at the seminary and then I could continue to date the same girl and possibly marry.

You see, this was what I had planned, all nice and neat, but that was not God's plan. I felt the struggle of wills, mine against his, and it made my time at the seminary onerous because I wasn't really giving myself to the program. I was just trying to validate my own desires. In the spring of 1994, I graduated with a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering. During that summer, I decided to officially enter Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo and was accepted as a seminarian for that fall.

The following spring I made a vow that if I found an engineering job I would take some time off from the seminary work. To make a long story short, I never found an industrial engineering job and by the end of the summer I knew that I wanted to return to the seminary.

My evaluations at the seminary were quite good even though I was still struggling with accepting God's call for me. In the spring of 1996, I completed the pre-theology program at Cardinal Muench Seminary and graduated with minor degrees in philosophy and accounting. It was time to move on to theology, time for another major decision.

At the time the Diocese of Bismarck was without a bishop. Msgr. Walsh, our vocation director, was also the administrator of the diocese. He and I had some serious discussions that summer about my future. I was considering the possibility of taking a year off from seminary studies but was also struggling with an attraction to Kenrick Seminary in St.. Louis for theology. No other seminarian from our diocese had ever studied in Kenrick. Would I be allowed to study there? Msgr. Walsh convinced me that takinga year off was not the best choice for me at that time. He encouraged me to continue my seminary studies and was willing to allow me to attend Kenrick Seminary, at least for one year to see where God would lead me from there. The grace of God does wonderful things and that decision has proven to have been one of the great blessings of my life.

I have now been at Kenrick Seminary for three years and they have not been without questoions and wonders about answering God's call in my life. At the same time, the past three years have been a time of growing certitude in my response to God's call. I credit much of this to the great faculty and staff at the seminary, who give their time and effort to assist men like me to discern how God is calling us to serve his church. Talking with friends, classmates and spiritual directors has been a source of great strength and support for me. They have helped me find and work through the obstacles which have held me back from fully answering God's call with all my heart.

I cannot say that I will be the best preacher or the best liturgist but I pray that I may be a holy priest, a priest of integrity. I am most thankful to God for calling me to holy orders as a deacon on May 2, 1999, and I am grateful to all of the wonderful people who have supported me in so many ways over the years, especially by their prayers.

Iam certain that God is calling many other men and women to serve him in priestly and religious vocations. I pray that each ofthem is blessed, as I have been, with support of family and friends which will give them the grace and courage to answer his call with certitude. God Stills Calls!