Religious Vocation Stories
Read how religious persons in our own diocese felt God's call to their particular vocation. One's vocation may or may not always be easy to discern, but as you'll see, you're in great company. Your brothers and sisters in our diocese are here to help you discern God's call for you.
Fr. Chris Cordes
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish - Columbia, MO
I started to sense an inclination toward the priesthood during my freshman year of college. Faith was already very important to me, and I had become involved with Teens Encounter Christ, attended Mass and other events at the Newman Center at Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State) University, participated in a Bible study with some guys from different churches I met through a friend, and took a course on the History of Religion in America as an elective. My church/faith-related activities were what I found to be most meaningful and enjoyable. I was reluctant to talk or even think much about the seminary or priesthood at first because of the commitment to celibacy, but over the next two years it just seemed more and more like I should take a serious look at priesthood, especially as I got to know some priests on a closer level and got a better sense of what their lives were like. It was still a long process that continued through the seminary years, and I had to make peace with the commitment to closing off the option of marriage and family, but who I was and what I felt drawn to and inspired by led to ordination 27+ years ago.
Fr. Ignitius Nimwesiga
Father Tolton Catholic High School - Columbia, MO
My call to priesthood came to me when I was a little boy and it progressed through different events!
My vocation to priesthood began when I was a little boy. I grew up seeing priests visiting our mission church (which they could visit about four times a year) and whenever they were around, everything would be done differently. It is only then that there would be the reception of Holy Communion, confessions, and sometimes weddings. And at that point, I wanted to be that man who would do all those wonderful things for people.
When I was in middle grade my village, which neighbors an army base, received a threat from the rebels who were fighting against the government that it was going to be attacked so that they (rebels) could gain access to the army base. We ran away from our homes and went into hiding. While in hiding I remember praying to God and promising Him that if He saves my life from that looming danger, I was going to dedicate my life to His service. I literally did not understand what I was saying and what serving God meant.
When I was in my senior year of high school, whenever I would be going to school, I would pass by the church for morning weekday Masses at least three times a week. And at every Mass, I would find myself asking God to grant me the grace to serve Him but not as a street preacher (I had seen preachers on the streets of my city and I never wished to be like them, though I admired their boldness). It was one Sunday and during the consecration, I listened to every word that the priest said. I was amazed that it is only a priest who can say the very words of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. It became so clear to me on that Sunday that that was how I want to serve God. God answered these prayers, and after high school, I joined a college seminary and since then I haven’t looked back.
Fr. Dan Merz
St. Thomas More Newman Center, Columbia
I knew definitively when the Bishop ordained me! From then on, all doubt ceased and I've never questioned my vocation. Until then, it was a struggle. But I always loved the brotherhood of seminary life and enjoyed learning about theology. Once I started seminary, I never found a good reason to leave!
My vocation began as a young boy desiring with all my heart to see the face of Christ. I remember sitting on my bed late at night begging for a glimpse of the face of Christ...just once and I wouldn't bug Him again!
After one year of public high school where I never quite felt at home, I went to the high school seminary then open in Hannibal (it’s closed now), but there I learned the beauty of friendships and community life. In the college seminary, I really fell in love with God. Now, I also dated a couple of wonderful girls in high school and college, but I discerned the most peace and joy in giving my life for the Church. It’s hard to find a better or more beautiful Bride.
Sr. Kathleen Wegman, SSND
Senior Director of Mission Integration - Catholic Charities of Central and Northern MO
I was intrigued by the joy, sense of community and ministry of the School Sisters of Notre Dame I had at Helias High School. I was especially attracted to the fact that they were deeply influenced by being members of an international congregation. The more time I spent with them, both in and out of school I began to feel a synergy, a sense of belonging. I sensed their love of God, of each other and passion for teaching. As that attraction grew within me I talked with God about it. I found myself taking time alone to be with God and asking God to make clear to me what was happening within me. I talked to one of the sisters about it, she confirmed that God may indeed be drawing me to SSND. My parents were supportive of a possible call to religious life. Over time, I just knew I must at least give it a try and trusted I would know each step along the way. I was not disappointed, God did and continues to show me the way each day of my life.
Fr. Henry Ussher
Clarksville, Louisiana, and St. Clement, MO
I had my call after witnessing ordination of three priests in my parish, Immaculate Conception Parish, Asankragua Ghana in 1983. When the candidates laid prostrate and all knelt for the litany of saints, I felt within myself a desire to be one of them. I was Catechist by then. I went home that day and told my mother that I wanted to be a Catholic priest. True to my words I sat for minor seminary exams in May 1984 and I entered seminary formation for 14 years (that includes 7 years of high school).
Fr. Matthew Flatley
Immaculate Conception Parish, Jefferson City
What I want to communicate most of all is the realization that God had a plan for my life, much to my resistance, and that God was VERY VERY patient! The key component of my vocation story is all about the relentless pull or call of the Holy Spirit. The Sprit was very gentle and humble, always respectful of my autonomy, but relentless nonetheless. Perhaps a significant lesson to be learned from my situation is the fact that if something keeps coming up in your life ... it may well be the Spirit of God knocking at the door. The other lesson is that vocations may come at a later stage in your life. Perhaps your role as a priest may be Act II.
Fr. Simon Jude Kanyike
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Columbia
At 8 years I was allowed to serve at Mass and that was a great score for me as a child growing up with practicing parents in our active parish church. My favorite role was ringing the bell at Consecration when everyone was quiet and the Eucharist was elevated in the hands of the priest. For this I could do anything to serve at more than one Mass on Sunday! Soon I wanted to be the priest that celebrates Mass. My parents called it a childish fantasy that I would outgrow. Later when I turned 11, a Priest friend to my parents visited and I told him-" I want to be like you". It was then that he explained to my parents that the Lord was calling me. I was accepted in the junior seminary and it kept getting better and clearer through the formation that God would consider me a priest servant to His Church. After 17 years I got ordained in 2005 for the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda. Am happy to be a Priest and am glad that I can serve as a missionary priest for the diocese of Jefferson City.