Father Gary Sigler’s vocation is a God wink.
His vocation history started early in life. At 13, the second-eldest of 10 children left day-to-day life with his parents, Thomas and Violet, to enter St. Fidelis Seminary High School in Herman, Pennsylvania. “It was a great Franciscan influence,” he said. After high school, it was off to St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio; but after one semester, his number came up.
Father Sigler’s birthdate was the third one drawn in a lottery operated by the Selective Service System to draft young men to go to Vietnam. He traveled to Cleveland from his hometown in Canton, Ohio, for the government-required physical, but was denied because of a blood clot in his right eye that causes no vision issues.
He did not return to the seminary. Working outside and inside the classroom, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in history from Kent State in 1973.
Visiting the first Mass of a seminary cohort member spurred Sigler to complete the priestly preparations himself. “It reawakened everything in me,” he said.
He attended a reception celebrating the friend’s Mass, and as he entered the party, the friend’s mother was the first person he saw. From across the room, she asked when he would finish his own seminary training. He describes it an “aha” moment, confirming that going back to the seminary was the right thing to do.
After completing seminary education, the young deacon was assigned to St. Rita Parish in Dayton, Ohio, and then to St. Charles Borromeo, Fort Wayne, for six months each. An especially proud moment came during the first part of his diaconate, he said, when then-Bishop Joseph Bernardin pulled him aside after Mass to say how much he appreciated the work and diligence of the young deacon — who had stepped up to help when the parish’s priest left.
Father Sigler was one of three in his ordination class on June 16, 1979, at Fort Wayne’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A copy of the ordination announcement still hangs on his wall. The quotation on it holds so much meaning that Father Sigler used it in the first sermon to his current parish: “Today I am given to you by God that I might serve you, and that together we might serve Him.”
Celebrating his 40th anniversary in the priesthood, Father Sigler’s service to the community includes three years at the cathedral; four years at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne; eight years as the pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Garrett; 11 years at St. Mary Parish, Huntington; and seven years at Queen of Angels Parish, Fort Wayne.
Angel, the companion Cockapoo that entered Father Sigler’s life during his time at Queen of Angels, remains with her master as he pastors his most recent parish assignment, at St. Paul of the Cross, Columbia City. He has been the pastor at St. Paul of the Cross for seven years.
“I have felt very appreciated everywhere I have been,” he said.
Father Sigler has been to some interesting places. He once planned a vacation to Rome and found himself concelebrating the Mass of canonization of Mother Teresa. On another trip, this time to the Holy Land, presiding at the Eucharist on Mount Tabor was both a figurative and literal mountaintop experience. “It was almost hearing ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.’ … [It was] very powerful.”
But having mountaintop experiences of faith are really relatively simple, he said. “The most important thing you can do is pray. If you don’t keep in touch with God, it all falls apart … It is a matter of having a personal relationship with Christ.”
Another means for Catholics to grow their relationship with God is by letting a priest minister one-on-one through the sacrament of reconciliation. “[It is a] powerful means of dispensing God’s mercy. I know how much I need God’s mercy. Sharing that with other people is wonderful.”
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