With the recent ordination of Father Derek Wiechmann to the priesthood, I took a trip down memory lane. The trip took me back to 2009 when our family started helping host one of the diocesan Vocation Camps in Villard. Our oldest children were six and four at the time. On a whim and as a favor to our friend, Father Gregory Mastey, who was the Vocations Director at the time, we offered to host one of the three day camps. That led to hosting for the next five years. I’d also say that while we were merely helping feed the young men who attended the camp, along with the seminarians and priests who came to help out, our family gained a lot from the camps too. We began to relate to the seminarians who crossed our path during those years. We kept in touch with many of them, if not personally, at least prayerfully. We’d seen several seminarians come and go, but many stayed and continued the journey to priesthood. In the last four years we’ve been honored to see those vocations come to fruition in the sacrament of Holy Orders as we’ve excitedly attended their ordinations at the Cathedral.
While looking back through the years we’ve known (now) Father Derek, I felt my heart swell and become so grateful. Not just for Father Derek and his vocation, but for the many priests who have become part of our family circle. Some of them may have been our pastor at some point in our lives, a colleague when I’ve worked for a parish or two. Others entered our circle through an event or the Vocations Camps. Each of them as unique as the homilies they preach each week. Each of them carrying a story of significance that touched us and drew them into our lives.
Some exteriors were a little harder to tap into and the vulnerability of the man in black took longer to reach. Others are natural extroverts who wear a smile, extend a hand and we quickly found common ground on which to stand. We’ve gathered around a table with them and shared a meal in our home, smiled and waved across a crowded room at a diocesan event, prayed with them at Mass or visited them at the current parish they are serving.
These men quickly rise to the top of our prayer list when we pray together each evening as a family. Praying for seminarians and priests has always been important to our family, but as personal connections have been made those prayers even more important. When our children were able to see priests outside of a church or Mass setting, they began learning more about them and started to find out how human they really were. They would hear about their families, ask questions of the priest, share a laugh or a joke and find out seemingly insignificant things like their favorite food or hobbies they enjoy. These turned into fond and fun memories for our kids over the years.
All of these things became reasons why priests are some of our family’s very favorite people.
We never set out to intentionally befriend these men. What we set out to do was to support and pray for seminarians and priests. What we gained is a cloud of witnesses donning black and faithfully, joyfully living out their vocation.
I hope you have a good example or two of a priest whom brings a smile to your face or spiritually challenges you. Continue praying for him and for all priests who need your support and prayers. Consider sending him a note of gratitude or encouragement and let him know you’re praying for him. Do you struggle with getting to know your parish priest or finding a way to connect with him? A great way to start is a smile, outstretched hand, or invitation to a meal. Sometimes it takes a few interactions or invitations, but be gently persistent. It may take him a while to have a clear calendar or perhaps he’s an introvert and encountering parishioners in their home is difficult for him. Prayerfully consider what may be the best way in which to support a priest. I’d say that letting him know you’re praying for him is a very good way to start. Those monthly Serra calendars printed in the Visitor are very useful for this. Pray for the priest of the day and, if he happens to be a priest you know, let him know that day that you are praying for him specifically.
Each of us can help foster and support vocations, whether to priesthood, religious, single or married life, one prayer at a time.