On Saturday, May 13, 2017, Bishop Carl A. Kemme of the Wichita Diocese ordained ten men to the transitional diaconate. God willing, those men, next May, will be ordained priests.
Just one week later, on Saturday, May 20, 2017, Bishop Kemme ordained ten men to the priesthood.
Twenty men have decided to follow Jesus no matter where He leads.
Which kind of begs the question,
what the heck is going on in the Wichita Diocese?
Why have so many men made this decision?
As I have watched and studied our priests, I have to tell you some things.
We have remarkable priests, each and every one with different personalities and gifts.
Some are crazy intelligent.
Some are deeply, deeply spiritual.
Some are fantastic with other cultures.
Some are bilingual.
Some are incredible preachers; their homilies resonate for days, weeks and even years, changing me from the inside out.
Some are super considerate and kind; as I talk to them I feel like I am in the presence of Jesus Himself.
Some are wonderful confessors.
I have priests that have given ME back to me, when I was lost in my own wilderness. They listened and then guided in tremendously life-giving ways.
They are real men, manly men.
Some drive big pick-up trucks; some have motorcycles.
Some are super athletic.
Some smoke and some are “smokin’ hot.”
Yep, I am married but I do have eyes in my head. We have some incredibly good-looking priests.
What I am trying to say is this:
Wichita Priests aren’t the Bottom of the Barrel types.
These are cream of the crop, fantastic men.
They love people and good whiskey and a good laugh. They love Our Lady and they embrace eternal truths.
They believe, deeply, in the sixth chapter of John. They believe every word. They have given their life for the hard truths in that chapter.
They are evangelists, living out that truth.
They give us that truth, that incredibly hard-to-believe truth, that Manna from Heaven truth, every single day.
They are devout. They are humble. When they struggle, they work on it. I have seen it in person, as they have made mistakes and asked for forgiveness publicly as well as privately.
They love what they do.
One time I went to confession on a Saturday evening at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.
After the priest heard my confession, I had this big feeling of, “I feel sorry for him.” I mean, it was a SATURDAY NIGHT and he was sitting in a confessional, praying his evening prayers and hearing an occasional confession.
I felt like I should give him something, to make amends for his crappy life. On a whim, I ran to the liquor store, grabbed my favorite six pack of beer and brought it back to the church.
No one else was in the church, the confessional door was open and the green light (indicating no one was talking with the priest) was shining; I walked in.
I went past the little divider, sat in the chair provided for those going face-to-face, smiled at my priest and said, “I brought you a gift.”
He took the bag, opened it, saw the beer and he gave me this quizzical look.
I said, “You like beer, right?”
“Yes, but why?”
I explained, “I cannot imagine how you must feel, stuck here on a Saturday night and all.”
He said, “Lori, no gifts needed. This is my vocation and I love it.”
I will never forget the look on his face as he spoke those words to me. He meant every word. He loved his life.
So I took the beer home and drank it.
Just kidding. But the truth is: we have crazy wonderful priests in our Wichita Diocese.
We have strong, intelligent, good-looking, witty, joyful, selfless and charismatic priests.
They love Jesus and they want to bring Jesus to His People. They want to serve. They want to lay down their lives for others. Literally.
Good priests attract good priests.
And that, more than anything, is why we have so many men being ordained.
Ask any priest why he felt called and he will, most likely, tell you the name of another priest.
If you ask my son Mitchell, just finishing his second year of seminary, why he feels called to the priesthood and he will tell you, “Fr. Ben Sawyer.”
If you ask him to be more specific he’ll tell you, “I have never been around someone with that much joy.”
(Letting go of Mitch has not been easy. Read more about that in this post, Taking My Child to Seminary.)
SO, there you have it. That’s our secret here in the Wichita Diocese. It’s not the parents or the families or the Bishop or even the water.
Like attracts like.