Thursday, October 4, 2012

The only problem is, there are not enough of them!

My latest for the Catholic Telegraph:

There is good news to report: the number of seminarians for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati continues to increase, reaching a high water mark since at least the mid 1990's, if not back to the mid 1980's!  As this academic year began, we have 45 men in formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese, 28 of whom are in major theology at Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West, 17 are in college formation at one of two houses of formation: Bishop Simon Bruté in Indianapolis or the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus.

These are great numbers, and as Vocation Director, I am very thankful for the help and support that our vocation program has received throughout the Archdiocese; from parish staffs and youth ministry programs, high school campus ministries, young adult formation groups, the excellent faculty and staff at Mount St. Mary's, my colleagues in the Central Offices of the Archdiocese, and certainly my brother priests who are out 'in the field;' all have helped to stem the tide of fewer vocations to the priesthood.

But it is not just the numbers that have continued to increase, but the quality and dedication of our seminarians is also outstanding.  We have men in formation for the priesthood who had many options that they willingly sacrificed to pursue this most noble of callings.  Several of our college men have full tuition scholarships based on academic merit; among our Major Seminarians are men who had offers at the graduate level to the University of Notre Dame, in addition to very successful business careers that were just starting.  Some of our men are very blue collar, born and raised on farms in the rural parts of our Archdiocese, connected to the ground in a way that those raised in cities just could not have.  Yet, they are a band of brothers, united by the Calling from God to lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters in the Lord was stronger. 

It is an exciting time to be working in this field, and not just here locally, but across the country.  Dioceses and seminaries are reporting increases and record enrollments, just as we are.  In fact, some seminaries are reporting that they simply cannot accept more students as their residence halls have been packed full.  This is an excellent problem to have!

Despite the optimism, there is still much work to be done.  Here in the Archdiocese, we need to at least double the number of men in formation from 45 to 70.  This would allow us to begin to turn the tide from shrinking numbers of active priests to actually increasing the laborers in the vineyard.  It is possible and we can continue the trend.  Some parishes within the Archdiocese currently have two or three seminarians just from that parish; if even half the parishes in the Archdiocese supported a son to enter priestly formation here locally, we would have over 100 men in formation.  Suddenly, it does not seem to be so great a task to achieve the goals set forth by Archbishop Schnurr.

On his behalf, I would like to thank one particular demographic for their support in our vocation efforts: the older generation who cannot be as active as they once were, but support the life and ministry of the Church through their vibrant prayer life.  As the prophetess Anna was night and day in the Temple praising God, so many of this greatest generation follow in her footsteps in their devotion to Daily Mass and recitation of the Rosary.  I ask this generation, in particular, to keep the vocation efforts in their prayers!

Finally, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are signs of great blessings and vitality for parishes and dioceses.  May the Lord continue to pour out these rich blessings on our Local Church, and increase the good work He has already begun in our midst.

Friday, August 31, 2012

But First, let me Check Facebook!

My latest for the Telegraph:

As I meet with men who are discerning the priesthood, I eventually get around to the question of how they spend their free time, as it shows where some of their interests lie.  However, over the last three years in particular, the responses have been getting more and more interesting.  Or, rather, the lack of response to the question of free time.  In short, they do not have any.  Young adults go from work, to sports, to play, to friends and back again constantly.  We are constantly plugged in.  (Ask my family about my constant use of my iPhone!)  There is so much ‘stuff’ going on in our lives that it is difficult to find the necessary time for quiet and prayer, where The Call from Christ is heard.

It is not that these things are necessarily ‘bad,’ either.  The young adults I know are involved in excellent apostolates, both within and outside the Church: volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, praying in front of abortion mills for the end of this heinous practice, serving on Parish councils and boards, dedication to work and family; coaching their children in sports; etc.  This generation, my generation, wants to be active and involved in a wide variety of aspects of community life, and we are.  But what is the cost?

One of the ways this seems to affect the life of young adults is precisely in their faith life.  In the many parishes that I visit, it is interesting that I do not see many of my own peers, those in their 20s and 30s.  It is not that they do not believe, per se, but often I wonder if it is a matter of being too busy with the other things of life that interfere with our faith life, even among ‘Committed Catholics.’

As I write this, one Gospel story comes to mind.  In Luke 9, as Jesus is walking along and making His way from Galilee to Jerusalem, He invites those around Him to “Come, follow me.”  However, He is met with various excuses: “Let me bury my dead father;” “let me say goodbye to my family, first.”  Both of these are not necessarily bad things to do, rather seem to be praiseworthy, yet Jesus rebukes both of them for putting other priorities before Him.  How often do we do the same thing?

As I work with young people, and not just those coming into or discerning the seminary, it seems that the life of faith is slowly, but surely being pushed aside.  But not in an outright, malicious, way.  Rather, it is slowly being shoved further and further into the corners of our calendars, now simply one option among many instead of the bedrock of stone upon which our lives as Disciples of Christ must be built.  It is not that this “pushing aside” is intentional, far from it; it’s just that, “I’m busy.”

So what must we do?  How do we respond?  There are a few simple things we can all embrace to return our faith life to the centrality that it not only needs, but deserves.  First, rediscover Sundays.  As difficult as it can be, do not schedule non-family events on Sunday.  Keep that as a time to reconnect after a hectic week, spend time either with just the immediate family or with the extended relatives.  Second, begin the practice of a Morning Offering, consecrating the day to Our Lord and offering your works that day for Him.  Third, make time, once a week, for a Holy Hour.  My mother has committed, from the time I was in my early teens, to making a weekly visit before the Blessed Sacrament at our home parish.  Despite now 19 grandchildren, this hour is vital to her so that she can be present to each one of them.

These little things can help us on the path of being more intentional about the practice of our Faith, rather than just sliding through the motions and letting other things fill our time.  If we truly believe that Christ is Lord and God, is this not the least we can do?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Battling for Prayer

My latest missive for The Catholic Telegraph:

A few weeks ago, I was asked and gladly was a part of our first CREDO retreat in the northern part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Held on the beautiful grounds of the Maria Stein Retreat Center, where I had often gone as a teen for retreats, we gathered over 80 young people for four days of prayer and reflection, funny enough on the topic of prayer: what is it?  How does it happen?  Styles of prayer, etc.  We wanted to give the attendees not just information about prayer, but opportunities to also ‘experience’ prayer, to begin a life-long habit of prayer, to begin a life-long habit of journeying with Christ to our homeland in heaven.

As we put together the retreat, there was something of a science to prayer that we wanted to convey, for there certainly are ‘steps’ that one can take for growth in one’s prayer life.  But so much of prayer, in fact the very source of prayer, does not start with the individual who is praying, but is actually a graced moment from God Himself, He is the author of the prayer of the individual, in that great twist of faith that so often happens.

Because God is the both the source and the summit of our prayer life, the routine of personal prayer can certainly help us ‘clue in’ to what God is doing in our lives.  But ultimately, prayer is that deeper conversation between the heart of the believer and God.  So, while there is certainly a ‘science’ to prayer, there is also an art to it as well, a certain requirement for flair, for the unexpected.

This is where the challenge can really arise, especially for those of us who live in the modern world.  So much of what we are formed in by this culture is to be in control, to take charge and be a ‘self made man (or woman),’ as it were.  In prayer, this is exactly the opposite.  Instead, it is the call to ‘let go and let God.’  YIKES!  Because when He takes over, who knows just how deep the rabbit hole really can go!

This is where the Catechism of the Catholic Church turns an interesting phrase.  For in discussing prayer in Part IV, they certainly hit the section which we all experience at some point in our lives: spiritual dryness, or as Saint Paul so eloquently termed: the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The Catechism terms this struggle ‘The Battle for Prayer,’ recognizing that ‘prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. (CCC 2725)’  While that initial definition seems to be rather easy to embrace, it is that second half, the ‘determined response’ that can lead to difficulties, especially when we bump into those physical and spiritual limits that sometimes come our way and realize that to ‘pray always’ actually does take work!

In response to the dryness, the lack of faith that sometimes arises in prayer, or simply the laziness that is easy to succumb to in prayer, the Catechism calls us first to a filial trust: the trust that God, as Father, hears our prayers and provides the gentle encouragement, not always in the way we want, but in the way we need.

Often, when we experience these frustrations and dry-spells, we throw in the towel and give up with a thought that our prayers are not efficacious.  However, it is precisely in these moments that our prayer takes on a deeper level, because we do not pray so that we see the results, but rather so that we might be drawn deeper to God, and that is something that only He can do in us.

Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta experienced years of darkness and dryness in her prayer, which strangely enough became part of the secret to her great success.  Shall we not also expect the same?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

thoughts on a new hobby....

Over the last year, I've had several people suggest that I needed to take up a new hobby.  I was finding that my days 'off' consisted of more work instead of doing something that allowed me to relax and do something productive and fun, while also still generally being inside (because of a photo sensitive condition).

Let's see, that eliminated Golf, just another four letter word.  Monday's eliminate Art Gallerys, (or maybe I just wanted to eliminate them?  (BUT the Cincinnati Art Museum is FREE!))

Ok, what's left...  hmmmm.....  (add in:)  I was having trouble finding a beer that I liked and on a recent trip to visit friends in NYC, struck up a conversation on beer brewing.  Yeah, but it's too long and complicated a process and I don't have the equipment and the space (wait, have you seen the residence where I live!)

New Hobby Born: home brewing!

Now that I have six batches under my belt, and talking about it with a friend last night, some thoughts.

First, it is nice to do something that you see the results of a few hours worth of labor, when you finish that batch and wash up, I have made: THAT!  In so much of our work, whether as a priest or just a faithful committed Catholic, we sow seeds that grow for someone else to harvest.  It's nice to have something concrete to look at.

Second: There is just enough tedium to the process that it keeps you honest and sharp.  From keeping everything sterile and clean, to washing labels off old bottles, to stirring a boiling pot of wort, just enough to keep you sharp, without being too taxing mentally.

Third: There is a cooperation with God.  The brewer prepares the Wort (unfermented beer), God gets the yeast to work their magic.  After a few hours of boiling, stirring, steeping, siphoning, etc., the yeast is pitched across the product and it is set aside, and through a slow, steady process, sugars are turned into alcohol and what was once too sweet, is turned into a delicious concoction.  God's Grace builds on our nature, taking what we offer Him and bringing it to a higher, greater level than we can do on our own.

Fourth, more than anything, it is fun to share!  So far, I've brought a number of products to friends and family to share the fruits of the barley.  What greater gift than to say, I made this and want to share it with you!  So far, there have been good returns, too!  (People actually like drinking this stuff!)  (Added Bonus: no taxes!)

Let's see, I started w/ a Robust Porter from Brewer's Best Kits; round 2 was a Witbier, also from Brewer's Best.  3 was a Russian Imperial Stout, (with Lots O Flavor!) also from Brewer's Best, I've pulled some of these aside to rest and sleep for a year or four.  Round 4, with my pop, was a Belgian Abbey Ale from Listermann Brewing Company here in Cincinnati  (With the Witbier, good summer brews.)  Round 5 was an Australian IPA from Brewer's Best, ready to go in bottles tomorrow.  6 was a Irish Red Ale, also w/ Pop brewed this past weekend up at Indian Lake, a kit from Northern Brewer.  Tomorrow, an Imperial Vanilla Porter from Hop City in Atlanta gets brewed.

I have a few other kits, including a Black IPA and a Scottish Ale that will be brewed by the end of the summer.  Dad has a Nut Brown Ale kit, too.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop over and have ya some!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Following the Footsteps of the Martyrs

The July edition of The Catholic Telegraph was published early to coincide w/ the Fortnight for Freedom.  Hence, my article takes up the theme:

85 years ago, our neighbors to the south were embroiled in a life and death struggle to maintain their freedom to worship as they saw fit.  With laws that the were enacted with the ratification of a new Constitution but never enforced, The Church in Mexico thought it had found an uneasy peace with the government.  However, as President Calles took office, he began a systematic implementation of the rules that previously existed.  This resulted in the suppression of the rights of Catholics to gather for Mass and for priests and nuns to wear religious garb outside of a house of worship.  Also, foreign born clerics were expelled from the country.  (As a side note, this oppression and the resulting heroism is told dramatically in the new movie, ‘For Greater Glory,’ which is currently in theatres.)

Our brothers and sisters to the south did not sit by quietly to allow this oppression to persist, however.  Bishops, priests, religious and lay men and women, Catholic, Protestant and Atheist, even, bonded together in a wide range of efforts to preserve the rights of Mexican citizens to express their religious liberty.  And while it was a long and difficult struggle, eventually the government had to withdraw, eventually the struggle for freedom was won; through the power of prayer and an attitude that they would not succumb to the forces arrayed against them.

The atrocities committed in Mexico against the Church are not the first time in history that civil governments attempted to silence and/or marginalize people of faith.  In the early Church, St. Justin Martyr was a great apologist and defender of the faith, even to the Emperor himself.  During the English Reformation, Sts. Thomas More, John Fisher, Margaret Clitherow, and Edmund Campion stood against the reforms of Elizabeth and gave their lives in witness to the Catholic Faith.  In the missionary countries of Africa and the Far East, the seeds of the Church were sown by the courageous witness of those who challenged the status quo and fought for the freedom to embrace this newly introduced religion, because it was true and resonated deep in the echoes of the heart.

Every time the Church is persecuted, it does not start with a full scale frontal assault, but rather slowly chips away at the fringes before, all of a sudden, there is no longer a freedom to do what our faith impels us to do: care for the poor and the elderly, teach and form the young, preach the Gospel, manifest Christ to the world around us.  All of these are obligations not just of the priest, but of every Catholic.

The comforting aspect is that we do not do this alone.  Recently, a Baptist woman came up to me as I was wearing my Roman Collar and affirmed: I support the Catholic Church!  And we do not stand just in this time, as the saints who have gone before us give us the example and courage to follow in their footsteps, so that there might be raised up from among our very midst saints in the vein of those listed above, from every age and walk of life.

The founding fathers of this country purposely installed religious liberty as our first and most cherished right because they knew the power of a citizenry that was aware of a higher power to do great things.  It is on all of us to embrace that call today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Book to Build the Culture of Vocations

Wing Tip by Sherry Boas

My review:

I was honored to be asked to read a preview copy and submit a review of the work to the author prior to publication. Here is my short synopsis:

'The inner life of a priest is not always easy to describe as both his family history and his experience in ministry affect who he is as a priest. Ms. Boas invites us into the inner life of Fr. Dante as he struggles with his own weaknesses, yet relies on the steel that is underneath as he struggles with the greatest challenge he will face as a priest. She captures him beautifully on paper and I would love to chat with my brother priest in person!'

For those who have read 'Diary of a Country Priest,' you will find the similar internal doubts and struggles that accompany one who has faith. We walk forward into the sometime darkness of our world and what appears to be a chance encounter leads to a chance of a life time.

A great summer read with a truly Catholic worldview and a strong effort to build a culture of Vocations within the Church.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Event for a Cause

A couple who's wedding vows I witnessed (and been friends of the bride and family since my seminary days) send along a personal note which I was asked to share:

Please join us for Vivian's Victory: a fun, family event to support our daughter and son in law Maria and Rod  Dunlap and their sweet daughter, Vivian, who has been diagnosed in the womb with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrom (HLHS). To learn more about the Dunlaps and their journey of love with Vivian, visit their blog. Our younger daughter Clare, when she found out about Vivian, decided to make this walk her senior capstone project which is a requirement for Mount Notre Dame seniors.  It has not only been a journey of faith with Rod and Maria but a joy to watch her sister work so hard as a 17 year old to try to pull this big event together
She has delegated to Tim and I emailing our contacts and the silent auction!

The big day is Saturday July 14th at 10 am and the  festivities begin with a 5K Walk/Run at beautiful Winton Woods. The proceeds of the walk will go to 1 heart 2 souls,  a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting expectant parents with poor prenatal prognosis for birth disabilities and infant loss, parents like Rod and Maria Dunlap.

Following the walk, stay to enjoy a family picnic with burgers from JTM. Throughout the morning, you can participate in a Silent Auction filled with fabulous baskets your whole family will enjoy. Proceeds from the Silent Auction will go to the Dunlap Fund.

For more details and to register to attend, please visit the event website:

2)    WE ARE LOOKING FOR DONATIONS BOTH CORPORATELY AND PERSONALLY TO MAKE OUR BASKETS AND ITEMS FOR THE SILENT AUCTION..please call me and I will be happy to come and get those 478-4025 (no donation is too small)
5)    Please forward this email to all of your contacts…thanks so much
Janet and Tim Lees
For those who missed it on Facebook and Twitter, here is my address to last Friday's Stand Up Rally in Dayton, Ohio, (with a nice bell soundtrack in the background):

Friday, June 8, 2012

Religious Freedom Rally, Dayton, Ohio

My address to the Religious Freedom Rally in Dayton, Ohio, noon, June 8, 2012:

85 years ago, our neighbors to the south were embroiled in a life and death struggle to maintain their freedom to worship as they saw fit.  The Mexican Government systematically suspended and suppressed the rights of Catholics to gather for Mass, for priests and nuns to wear religious garb outside of a house of worship, and any foreign born cleric was expelled from the country.  These stories are told eloquently in the new movie For Greater Glory which is in theaters now.

Our brothers and sisters to the south did not sit by quietly to allow this oppression to persist, however.  Bishops, priests, religious and lay men and women, Catholic, Protestant and Atheist, even, bonded together in a wide range of efforts to preserve the rights of Mexican citizens to express their religious liberty.  And while it was a long and difficult struggle, eventually the government had to withdraw, eventually the struggle for freedom was won; through the power of prayer and an attitude that they would not succumb to the forces arrayed against them.

My friends, we live in such a time and we must look to our fathers and mothers in the faith to see the example of their courage in the face of oppression, their resolve in the face of insurmountable odds, their determination when even family is turned against them.  This is our time to stand and be counted.  This is our time for greatness.

There are forces arrayed that want to redefine religious liberty into merely a freedom to worship as we please.  This is not the right protected in our Constitution.  This is not what so many of ancestors came to this country to find.  We seek a liberty to be guided by our religious ideals to serve the poorest of the poor, to educate the young, to meet the needs of the sick and downtrodden, not because they are Catholic or co-religionists; but because WE ARE.  Our faith demands that we serve, our mission is not solely ad intra, but as commanded by Our Lord, it is necessarily ad gentes, to the nations, to be a leaven in society and to be a force that works for The Good, not just for ourselves, but for ALL PEOPLE.

This is not a struggle solely for the bishops and the priests to undertake.  While i ask you to please pray for our courage in leading you through the dark times ahead, you must also be active in this!  I ask you to do three things:
1)      fast and pray for this effort!
2)      Stay informed on the topic, and dont get caught in the trap that this is just about contraception, it is much deeper and broader than that.
3)      Use social media to keep the conversation going.  The main stream media is not covering this, so we must take it on ourselves to make sure this message gets out.

As we gather here today, we stand accompanied by the witnesses who have gone before us and who have given their lives for this most cherished of all American liberties.  Let us follow the example of the martyrs of Mexico during the Christeros movement, of England during the Reformation, of Japan and the Far East during the missionary times and of the Early Church who first sowed the seeds of faith in Europe; that as they were willing to give all in testimony to their faith, and by doing so won the hearts of their enemies, that we might be willing to take up the call in our own day and age to be the leaven for society and to allow Christ to continue to speak through our words and actions.

May God bless our country and all who are gathered here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Catholic Priesthood: Here Comes Father Everyone

My latest missive, for the Ordination Edition of the Catholic Telegraph:

A few weeks ago, I had to be on Long Island for a meeting with a few other Vocation Directors to talk about some national strategies and plans that effect all of us who toil in this field.  As I had not had time off for a while, I went up a few days early to spend some time in the City prior to the meetings, and while I truly love Cincinnati and do not desire to live anywhere else, New York is a city like no other and offers an unique insight into our world that just does not come across in any other city that I have visited.

But where this comes across with the greatest clarity, at least for me as a visitor to the ‘Capital of the World,’ as Pope John Paul II famously called the Big Apple, is in the trips under the streets and into the New York City Subway; for those who like to ‘people watch,’ there is no better environ than the closed off tunnels of the Five Burroughs.  Simply, the New York City Subway takes everyone.  As you wait for the next train, the indigent poor are plying music to make a few dollars; school students heave backpacks; college kids are immersed in the world of their own, shielded by their iPods; families travel together who knows where; men and women in business attire scan the paper for the latest news; and older men and women go about their day, carrying their purchases back home.  Every land and culture intermingles in a way that happens in few other places.

It struck me that the Catholic Church is so much like the New York City Subway.  Simply, both take in all who apply.  At Mass, we see the same people who ride the subway; the poor sit next to the three-piece business suit; parents of young children rub elbows with octogenarians; immigrants and long established families are nourished from the same paten and chalice.  As the subway takes people from point A to point B along their daily journey, the Church brings her sons and daughters from the here-and-now to an awareness of the hereafter; and every is welcome to ride along, at whatever stop they enter.

It is not so among some of our Protestant brothers and sisters.  In talking with converts into the Catholic Church, especially those who entered from a smaller congregation, this diversity of souls was part of the initial draw that brought them home to the Church.  In their previous congregation, they state, everyone was just like ‘me,’ whoever that ‘me’ is.  In the Church, as in the subway, we are constantly confronted by those who are different, other; and this can be such a good way of growing in the awareness of the great benevolence of God who establishes such beauty on the Earth.

In my role as Vocation Director, this is something that I have also become increasingly aware of: our need to cultivate vocations from all corners of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, while continuing to support areas that have traditionally been fertile ground in this cultivation.  The priesthood is a rich diversity of talents and abilities already; and our seminarians certainly do reflect this diversity.  We have men who had offers for Doctoral programs and law schools to men who worked as general laborers for years prior to entering seminary.  We have men who were chefs to former military officers, men who are just out of high school to those who earned a retirement package from their previous employer.

Yet, we must continue to be aware of the increasing need for Spanish speaking priests and priests from a variety of culture backgrounds; for our priests not only ought to reflect our people, they need to reflect our people.

Please pray for our priests, pray for our seminarians; pray for those whom God is calling but do not yet have the courage to respond. 

For ideas on how to create this culture of vocations in your parish and home, please visit.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Homily from Mass on my anniversary of the priesthood

With the Serra Club:

8 years ago today, I was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Pilarczyk at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains, downtown.

It was a memorable day and my family joked that they had to tie a rope around my waist I was so excited and ready to start my task of working in the Lord’s vineyard.

After 8 years, I wanted to reflect a bit about what I have learned and possible things to reflect upon in our work as the Serra Club of Cincinnati.

First, I have come to appreciate more and more that the Lord is never outdone in generosity.  As we give ourselves to Him, as priest (or Bishop), religious or even as a lay person (single or married), He takes what we give Him, blesses it and gives it back to us.  This is the model of Mass and the pattern of our lives as Catholics.  Last night, I was walking through Kroger to pick up a few things and while I was only there five minutes, tops, I was met by a family that welcomed me and mom remarked: ‘we’re going to have you over soon, I promise!’  (as she has been promising for, I think, a year and a half!)  It is probably the most striking lesson as a priest: many, many more know you than you will ever know them.  And it is such a beautiful thing to be able to witness.

Secondly, I am struck by the amount of work that truly needs to be done, as I am sure Jesus was struck by that same impression as well.  My generation, especially, is lost and needs the direction that comes only from the Gospels.  I am frightened there will be few to minister to, eventually.  Frankly, I do not see many my own age at Mass.  If there is anything else that drives me in my work as priest and vocation director, it is this.  I am scared that my generation has bought into the lies of this world so deeply that we will not be able to be rescued.  But Jesus did not preach only where he knew he would be successful, He preached everywhere.  So must we.

Finally, point three, today’s First Reading gives us all a great context when we get a little too caught up in thinking I have to do this or that.  Simply, St. Paul hands on his work to the next generation.  This is the life of the priest.  I have baptized many babies, married many couples, heard countless confessions; and I have no idea where they are now.  Every once in a while, someone will come back and say, ‘you did this for me….’  Truthfully, because of the way my brain works, I usually have no idea what it was, but I’m glad they remember.  More often than not, we have no idea.  But we still preach, we still present the beauty of the Gospel, and then we hand it on.  It is for another to reap.  The Church Militant marches on through the passage of time, and is bigger than any one individual.  And again, something beautiful about that, too.

I continue to be struck by the love outpoured to our priests and bishops.  I had many, many facebook and twitter messages, phone calls and texts today congratulating me on 8 years as a priest.  I can honestly say, I still feel like I am getting started and I am eternally grateful that God has seen fit to call me to this most wonderful way of life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Silent No More and Vocations to the Priesthood

Yesterday on Patheos, The Crescat posted a very personal, moving account of the lasting effects she suffers from mistakes she has made in the past.  Please head over there to read the whole thing, say a quick prayer for her and all those who are agonizing with such mistakes that they might be healed by Christ's loving call and then comeback over here.  Ok?  Ok.

Back?  Good.  A few thoughts, if I might.

I am involved in the Pro-Life Movement.  Gladly.  I say Mass once a month for the Helpers of God's Precious Infants at Holy Name Church, Mount Auburn.  (I'm on 1st Saturday of the Month, 8:00 AM, stop by if you get the chance.)  I pray regularly for an end to abortion and the conversion of hearts of those who are in that industry and the lawmakers who shelter and coddle them.  I've been to the March for Life, but need to go more often.  I am an advisor for Cincinnati Right to Life, where the Pro-Life Movement was founded.  (Really, I mean that.)

With all the above, I also recognize that I am not going to be the one who wins the war against abortion on the everyday level.  I can't.

However, those who, like the Crescat, come forward after an abortion and admit the terrible and lasting effects that it has had on them in their lives.  The depression.  The feeling of absolute inadequacy.  The imprisonment. The Shame.

I have counseled women who have had abortions, at least initially.  It is beyond my limited abilities.  I have seen the same pain and turmoil that the Crescat talks about in her post face to face.  I have also seen the courage that it takes to publicly admit that mistakes have been made.  The fear that paralyzes.  The evil one whispering in the ear that 'because of this, you are unloveable.'

It is not so.  I look at the Gospels and see the ones Jesus called closest to Himself were not the perfect and the 'Holy,'

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Priesthood and Spiritual Motherhood

On Mother's Day Weekend, I was asked to address the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests Retreat on the topic of the Priesthood and Spiritual Motherhood.  Here are my remarks:

I am Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  I originally hail from the northern reaches of the Archdiocese, as I say, where the faith is still very much alive.  I am very honored that my mother drove down this morning to be here as part of this retreat.  As every priest knows, he would not be at the altar without the loving support of his mother.  I’m very lucky in that not only my mom but my whole family was very supportive of my vocation to the priesthood and continue to pray for me as I do for them.  In fact, Grand-Baby Schnippel #19 is due any time now.

However, my task today is to reflect on three interrelated topics to set the stage for launching this apostolate: The Importance of the Priesthood, Spiritual Motherhood and ‘Why this apostolate?’  I will visit each of these topics in due course of my reflections this morning.  I have been given an hour to share my thoughts, which is probably about 45 minutes too long!  But nonetheless, away we go.

On the question of the importance of the priesthood, we begin not with the priest himself, but in the very nature of the human person, all the way back to the creation of Adam.  As Adam was created in the Garden of Eden, there was an incompleteness, a lack within the self, for he was out of relationship.  In His infinite wisdom, God recognizes that ‘it is not good for the man to be alone, let us make a suitable partner for him.’  And God sets out to create all the plants and animals for the man to name, yet none are suitable, none are reflections of God Himself, until, at last, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Eve is created from his very side as the one suitable partner in all of creation.  Man was created for the transcendent, there is a longing for more at the very core of who we are as human beings.  As we use our thought to reflect on the nature of the world around us, we see that there is more than meets the eye.  Nature itself reveals the fingerprints of God and points us to both the source of all creation and the goal of all creation.  In this recognition, we hear the echoes of St. Augustine’s great awareness: ‘You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You!’

This plays out repeatedly in the Scriptures, but perhaps never so clearly as when Jesus, following the Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5-7 or Matthew’s Gospel begins to go around Galilee performing miracles and forming his closest disciples.  As He looks to the crowd that follows after Him, as he visits the towns and villages, Saint Matthew reports that ‘at the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”’[1]

Isn’t this interesting that the most often quoted passage that speaks of the need of praying for vocations to the priesthood follows Jesus recognizing the hunger in our hearts of the transcendent?  This shows the connection that exists between this longing and Christ establishing the priesthood as His continual presence in the Church and the World after His Ascension.

For, right after He commands us to pray for shepherds after His own heart, Jesus then calls the Twelve forward to begin forming them in the mission they will have after His Resurrection.  At

Now What?

My last missive for the Catholic Telegraph, which I should have posted a few weeks ago:

There are so many wonderful things that we celebrate during the Easter Season, it is so difficult to pick out different memories or thoughts and keep them from blending into one seamless fabric of thoughts.  From the joy of Easter Sunday itself, to reflecting on the growth of the Church as we read the Acts of the Apostles, celebrating vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Easter, this year April 29), to the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost; the entirety of the Easter Season gives us a ‘plan of attack,’ as it were, for us to move forward into Ordinary Time.

However, one memory always comes to fore, as I think it does for many priests: my ordination.  May and June is ‘Ordination Season’ when many dioceses celebrate the ordination of the new crop of priests, ready to be sent into the fields of the Lord’s Harvest for the first time.  In particular, my ordination in 2004 was on the Feast of the Ascension, and as these words from the Acts of the Apostles were proclaimed at my Mass of Thanksgiving, I could so relate:

“While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.  (Acts 1:10:11)’

I had just spent 8 years in seminary formation, preparing for this day.  And while I knew it was coming, I could identify with the Apostles as I felt them looking toward one another with the same question rolling around in their minds: ‘Now what?’  Paralyzed by the unknown, they were locked together on that hill.
Yet, Jesus promised that He would not leave us orphaned or alone, and that, soon, the Paraclete would come to be their guide.  As we move from Holy Week into the Easter Season, we are able to see the Apostles finally responding to the prompts of the Spirit as they move from a rag-tag group of eleven men huddled in the Upper Room to fierce debaters of all comers as they proclaim Christ, and Him Crucified.

Thankfully, the same Spirit who so animated the Early Church continues to inspire and guide us, their spiritual descendents.  There have been many times already in my eight short years as a priest where I have walked into a situation without a clue of what to say or what to do.  I try to take that step back and whisper a short prayer to the Holy Spirit that He might continue to guide me in this very moment, as He has up to this point.

For me, it is a great comfort to know that it has always been this way.  The Eleven, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, looked at each other and surely had that thought: ‘Now What?’  History reports so many of the saints having that same thought: St. John Chrysostom as he was banished repeatedly from Constantinople, for example.  Yet, the Spirit continues to lead.

As Jesus calls, he does not look for just talent, he does not look for intelligence, he does not look for just the gifted speaker.  He looks for trust.  For those who are called to follow Him as priest and/or religious, this gives great hope in the midst of that quaking fear.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

But you, Follow Me!

My latest for the Catholic Telegraph.

In my life as a priest, I often joke that it has been my plight to work with young people,  but their energy and zeal is certainly something that keeps us ‘older’ folks moving!  In my work with young people, especially, however, I have noticed a trend that speaks not only to the reality of life of a 21st Century teenager, but also reflects the realities that many of us face.

When I do vocation talks among the young, or our seminarians spend the day in various high schools around the diocese, and we present to young men the possibility of the priesthood, or young women with the possibility of religious life, the usual initial response is somewhere between a scoff, a shrug or a vociferous ‘NOT ME!’  It is often fodder for my own prayer as to why we get such a reaction.  Of course, I have a few thoughts on this…

Especially with the young, facing the demands placed on them by this culture, there is a strong sense that ‘I can’t do this.’  Either because of a pervasive sin that blocks them from hearing God’s call, or the culture prevents them from seeing the possibility of a celibate life, or there is a desire to have prestige in the eyes of the world instead of the eyes of the Church, or a sense that one does not have the necessary talents and/or abilities that are required for the priesthood today; there is an unwillingness or an inability to respond, in love, to God’s gentle invitation to ‘Come, follow me.’

In response, we hold up the example of Christ in the Scriptures.  He did not seek out only the talented and well equipped, he did not seek out solely the perfect and the beautiful; he sought out those who loved, and loved deeply.  For example, St. Peter was brash and impetuous, Sts. James and John were bold and bragging, St. Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out from her.  Yet, these individuals were either Jesus’ closest Apostles or the one to whom He first appeared after His Resurrection.

This highlights one inescapable fact about who Jesus calls, and the response demanded when He calls.  Jesus calls the individual into the life of the Church.  And when He looks at the one called, he sees not just where they are presently, but what they will become in the future with His grace.  The response is not one of ‘Yeah, but…’  Rather it is to have the courage of our saintly predecessors: ‘Wherever You go, I will go; wherever You lead, I will follow.’

Then, in response, in love, we desire to sacrifice our sins in greater love for God.  Jesus calls where we are, but He calls to something more, something deeper, something profound that this world cannot answer.  To respond to His call (whether to priesthood, religious life, or married life) is to begin a life long journey of faith, of discovery of the breadth, depth, beauty and majesty of life; and a life shared generously.

To those who are called to this unique relationship with Christ as a priest or religious, I leave you with the final words of Jesus to St. Peter in the Gospel according to St. John: “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”  Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?”  When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come?  What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”  (John 21:18-22)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

'Being Catholic' launched...

As if I needed another place to land online, I was asked to be a part of a new effort of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis: 'Being Catholic' which is a group blog of writers from around the Archdiocese of Cincinnati focused around the question of 'Being Catholic' of course.

You can find it here.

Spiritual Fatherhood Seen in a New Light

My latest missive from the Catholic Telegraph:

As I do talks on the priesthood, inevitably questions arise about priestly celibacy.  In responding to this question, I compare how the love of a husband and wife erupts in the creation of natural life, while the priest’s love for the Church begets a spiritual life in her children, especially through the Sacraments.  Practically, though, I cannot imagine doing what I do and also having to try to support a wife and family, but that is another story.

Because of the work I have done as a priest, initially teaching full time in a high school and now working in the Vocation Office, I have not always been able to see the results of this spiritual fecundity that I knew was present as a priest, but not always so overtly.  When I talk to my classmates, I feel a little abashed that I have not done near the number of weddings, funerals, and/or baptisms that they have; as they have all had full time parish ministry responsibilities; but God continues to call us where He wills, so I will get there sooner or later.

However, I had a recent opportunity that allowed me to glimpse directly into the heart of what it means to give spiritual life to another, and the experience was one I will always remember.  I have recently struck up a friendship with a young man who is going through the RCIA process.  He did not know many Catholics at the time he started inquiring, so a mutual friend connected us on Facebook and we have gone from there.  As a life long Catholic, I love walking someone through the mysteries of our faith to help them discover the interconnections between the teachings of the Church, gleanings from science, how the Old and New Testaments are interconnected, etc.  That he is soaking this all up as quick as I can feed it to him is icing on the cake!

As I got to know him, I also got to know his mother, who also started to desire full Communion with the Church.  Unlike her son, however, she was already Baptized, so she did not need the full RCIA process, and being homebound, it would be difficult to get to classes anyway; so we started meeting at their home and she soaked things up almost as quick as her son.  (I want to chalk it up to being a good teacher, but that had little to do with it, I fear!)

Finally, she seemed ready and in need of the graces of the Sacraments, so we set the date to welcome her into full communion of the Catholic Church and prepared the ceremony.  While it is a fairly simple and straightforward rite, I found it to be particularly moving as this individual who had sought God for so many long years was fully embraced by the Church she now calls mother.  Having played a small part in this process, I have rarely felt so much like a ‘dad’ as I did in the moments of receiving her testimony of faith, offering the Sacrament of Confirmation and finally giving her Holy Communion for the first time.  This, I finally understood, was Spiritual Fatherhood.  As I stepped out of the Sacristy after Mass and saw so many parishioners greeting her warmly, I knew her long journey was over and now she was home.

As I reflect on this now, there is so much in the journey we all make that is echoed in the journey of this one woman.  Despite the many wanderings and meanderings we all make during life, God consistently and persistently calls each one of us by name closer to Himself.  When we finally do return, we are welcomed as if we never left, as the Magnanimous Father reaches out to embrace his long lost son.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Forums discussing Religious Liberty

This from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

Three offices of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are sponsoring two informative forums on the new Health and Human Services mandates that would require most to employers, including Catholic institutions and business owners, to pay for employees’ health coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.
Each free event will include presentations from a panel of experts in the areas of  moral theology, Catholic social teaching, civil law and its impact on religious institutions, and the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. They will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. March 6 at Ascension Parish, Kettering, and 7 to 9 p.m. March 8 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, West Chester  
The Family and Respect Life Office, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, and the Catholic Social Action Office are sponsoring the forums.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 38th largest Catholic diocese in the country, with almost 500,000 Catholics, and has the eighth largest network of Catholic schools in terms of enrollment.  The 19-county territory includes 214 parishes and 113 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Religious Freedom Under Fire

St. Cecilia is hosting a panel discussion and Q&A on Wed., Feb. 15, at 7:00 p.m. in response to the recent Health and Human Services mandate that will require all institutions that provide health insurance to cover the cost of contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization for their employees. This would force all Catholic organizations, such as hospitals and schools, to pay for practices that directly violate the Church’s teachings.
This mandate runs contrary to our nation’s long-standing tradition of respecting our citizens’ religious liberties that allow people of all beliefs to follow their consciences and the tenets of their faith. The U.S. bishops have declared the Church cannot and will not comply with this mandate, because to comply would be to deny the teachings of Christ.
Some topics the panelists will address: What is the situation, its implications, and its effect on religious liberty? What did God create us for? Why does the Catholic Church not allow contraception, abortion, and sterilization? What are the fruits of contraception and abortion on society in the last 50 years? How should we respond to these attacks on religious liberty and our rights of conscience?
For more information e-mail Dan Egan at: Catholic4areason @

Friday, January 27, 2012

Archbishop Schnurr on the HHS Mandate

Archbishop Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati (and my direct boss!) has issued a statement to be read at all Masses within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati this coming weekend.

I've linked to it over at the Vocation Office Page.

The statement can also be found at the Telegraph's page.

Which also has a response from the new editor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vocations Among Us

My latest missive for the Telegraph:

Vocations Among Us

One of the key moments in my own vocation was several years before I even thought about the possibility that I might even be called to the priesthood.  But looking back now, without this event, I would have never even considered the possibility.  At the time, however, it was just another event that I was honored to be a part of.

My junior year of high school, a son of my home town was ordained to the priesthood for the Congregation of the Holy Cross.  As he was my oldest sister's brother-in-law and needed extra servers for his Mass of Thanksgiving, my twin brother and I were volunteered to assist; which we gladly did.  I can still see the joy on the face of a newly ordained priest, years of study, prayer and hard work had culminated in this event; and even though I would not have been able to articulate it at the time, this became a key moment for me in looking towards the priesthood.

A year later, as my class was graduating and heading off to college, I learned that someone I knew from the neighboring town was entering seminary.  Hmmm.....   Men really do still do this.  As I made my way through my own first year of college life, I recognized my own priestly calling through the ongoing example of the priests at the Campus Ministry and entered the seminary for my second year of college.  I never really looked back since.

These recollections are not merely to fill space, but serve to highlight a very simple, yet vitally important point in the cultivation of a spirit of vocations within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  With both Archbishop Schnurr and Archbishop Pilarczyk (and now including Bishop Binzer in the discussion), we are convinced that there are vocations to the priesthood in our midst, sitting near you every Sunday at Mass, passing you on the street corner, riding the bus home from school.  We just need to find them, encourage them, help them to discover this pearl of great price to which they have been called.

With this recognition, throughout the month of January as we went from National Vocation Awareness Week to the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, the Vocation Office has been recognizing the stories of local men and women who have answered the call and are now serving as religious, priests, or still in training to be so.  I invite you to visit to peruse these stories.

In reading through them, I am struck that there is no common theme besides faithfulness.  There is no 'magic pill,' as it were, for families to do which inspired a vocation.  There is no simple recipe that will automatically bring your son to be a priest.  In these vocation stories, the life-long cradle Catholic is positioned side by side with converts from atheism.  Families who were wonderfully supportive are contrasted with a few who nearly disowned their daughter or son for entering the seminary or convent.

Yet, even with the disparate versions of these stories, three common themes present themselves: faithfulness, prayer, and trust.  As we move deeper into Ordinary Time and once again enter into the great season of Lent; perhaps these three dimensions are once again being called to the fore in your family as God continues to form us all to be more like His Son.  And if God calls one of your sons or daughters to the priesthood or religious life, trust that He truly does know what is best.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Vocation Awareness Week Prayer Service

Hey, all you folks up in the Northern fringes of the Archdiocese, have we got the event for you:

National Vocation Awareness Week

An Evening of Worship & Prayer
Thursday - January 12, 2012

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church
New Bremen, Ohio
Presiding: Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Vocations Director
& Deacon Greg Bornhorst

Mass at 7 p.m. followed with Prayers

The Church sets aside the week following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord as National Vocation Awareness Week. A vocation to the priesthood and/or consecrated life can only truly be heard and answered by one who has a deep connection with Our Lord and fostered by a strong life of prayer. For more information, visit

Sponsored by Serra Club of St. Mary’s/Sidney Deaneries