Attend the Ordination: Saturday, June 2 at 11 a.m., Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 1122 South Clinton St., Fort Wayne
Live Streaming will also be offered through social media channels.
On Saturday, June 2, Deacon Thomas Zehr’s title will change to Father Thomas Zehr as he makes his final commitment to the Catholic faith. His ordination signifies a completion to a decision that he feels started when he was a 12-year-old boy attending a grade-school Mass. Deacon Zehr said that his calling to the priesthood became stronger as time passed.
“I started thinking seriously about it my junior year, but I was in my senior year of high school when I decided that I wanted to make the commitment to join the seminary right after graduation,” he said.
This decision was no surprise to those who were closest to him, in fact, his parents said it “made sense” for him.
Deacon Zehr is the second oldest of eight children. His family lives in Fort Wayne and are members of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, although they often attend St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on days he is giving the homily. Deacon Zehr was asked to serve at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on May 20, 2017, and he will continue serving the parish until June.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “My family and friends have backed me since the beginning. They’ve all been with me and helped in various ways. I know that they have supported me with their prayers, for sure.”
Deacon Zehr also credits Father Dave Voors, Father Mark Gurtner and Msgr. Michael Heintz for their guidance about making his commitment to the priesthood.
“These three men have been very influential, and have each played a large roll in my decision. They have set a strong example of what it means to live in God’s love.”
This support has helped his feelings about his ordination day grow from being a plan to something more.
“Recently, I’ve become excited. It’s real now,” he said. “It’s almost here, and I can’t wait.”
Deacon Zehr said he is most looking forward to hearing confessions and granting penance.
“I’ve received so much healing from confession. I’m excited to give that to others.”
Despite all the excitement, Deacon Zehr recognizes there will be challenges he will face as well. He has prayed about his shortcomings and believes that recognizing them will make him a better priest for his congregation.
“I need to encourage people to challenge themselves and their faith,” he said. “I need to show by example and recognize that I’m called for more. We all are.”
His biggest fear is that he will accidently say something that will turn someone away from their faith.
“I’m human. I’m normal,” said Deacon Zehr. “I’ll make mistakes, but I pray that I will handle each situation the way God has intended.”
Being ‘normal’ is an aspect of life that he wants others to recognize about all priests, deacons, seminarians or anyone who has chosen the religious life. He wants to be approachable: He wants to be invited to dinners, as he feels that eating with people is “the best way to get to know them.”
“When I was younger, my parents always invited priests to our house for dinner. I learned at an early age that priests are joyful guys.”
He credits his parents for creating a strong, loving, Catholic culture for him and his siblings to grow up in.
“We knew to trust in God, and that we were loved very much. My parents encouraged us to make and carry out decisions that would lead us closer to Him.”
Trusting in God is needed for this next step in Deacon Zehr’s journey.
“He wanted me to be a priest. It may not have been my first choice; I had other plans. Having a good, wholesome family would have been nice, It’s just not what God had planned.”
He believes that he will be happiest listening to God’s plan for him, and that he will be a father in a different way.
“It’s important to always be open to His voice,” Deacon Zehr said. “He might be calling you. Just do it: Learn to be better, and pray better.”
Father Thomas Zehr will celebrate his first Mass at Our Lady of Good Hope Church on Sunday, June 3.
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