In the sixth grade, Keeton Lockwood first heard God’s call to consider the vocation of religious life. He just moved from Auburn to Fort Wayne and joined St. Vincent de Paul Parish. There he met Msgr. John Kuzmich and began going to daily Mass.
“The way he would celebrate Mass and draw people to God opened my eyes, heart and soul to Him,” said Lockwood. “Seeds were planted within me then.”
Lockwood continued on to high school at Bishop Dwenger and also continued going to Mass regularly and praying every day. His prayer was ordinary, he said, just “talking to God, sharing the joys and frustrations of the day, thanking Him, spending 15 minutes in the morning or evening,” but at the same time it was extraordinary, considering what teenage years can sometimes look like.
His family supported his calling to the priesthood, “giving him real-life examples in how they loved others, person to person in relationship and carried themselves through life.”
After high school, he applied to enter the seminary, wanting to respond and answer God’s call. He asked instead to wait a few years, go to college, gain some more life experience and grow.
It was this time of growth that Lockwood now can look back on with particular grace. He shared, “This is when I really became active in my parish, at St. Vincent. I served as a sacristan and joined a discernment group with Father Andrew (Budzinski), who really helped me hone my desires and work through my thoughts and feelings of a vocation.”
He also studied computer information systems for two years at Ivy Tech College, learning the business side of the computer tech industry by taking accounting and management classes.
In 2014, he reapplied and was accepted by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as a seminarian for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He was sent to Seminary College at the Josephium Pontifical College in Ohio for the next three years. His mother passed away his first year of studies, at which time St. Vincent parish truly became a second home for him.
Lockwood returned to Columbus and continued studying theology and philosophy, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy. He then spent three more years of growing and learning at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, studying morality and Sacred Scripture. Analyzing the Pentateuch and Gospels and how they connect has been one of his favorite courses. In June 2021, Lockwood looks to graduate with a master’s in divinity.
His prayer takes a variety of forms now, from a daily holy hour in front of a tabernacle or exposition of the Eucharist, to Lectio Divina, a daily rosary and the Litany of the Hours five times a day. Sometimes his prayer is communal, such as the Divine Mercy Chaplet or rosary; at other moments it’s individual. Both allowing Lockwood to delve deeper into relationship with God who created, saved and sustains him, he said.
The last two months have been unique for Lockwood, as for the rest of the faithful, because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. He returned home to St. Vincent and completed his studies online along with three other seminarians and four priests. Their “homeschooling” community of eight engaged in Zoom meetings, online e-learning classes, and an hour a day of calling parishioners — something recommended by pastor Father Daniel Scheidt.
Lockwood is currently serving at St. Joseph Parish, Fort Wayne, where he will assist with baptisms, preach at Mass and speak with children completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children this summer. He is looking forward to preaching both in English and Spanish, through which “I can connect with people in a large group and share our faith.” His first homily will be on Trinity Sunday, and he is already preparing.
On June 6, he will grow into a new stage of his vocational life, that of a deacon. At his home parish he will be ordained to the first degree of holy orders by Bishop Rhoades, along with five other seminarians, all from Fort Wayne.
Excited for this next stage of growth, Lockwood is grateful for all that he has been given. He particularly hopes to be able to minister and share God’s love with His people. The examples of St. Benedict Labore, his confirmation saint, and St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata are both models of how Lockwood feels called to serve, with a special love for the poor and homeless.
He recalled riding along with his mom when he was young, and asking, “Can we help them?” upon seeing someone begging on the side of the street. She always would share some groceries or money to buy some fast food, planting the good seeds of service and God’s charity and love — which now are clearly flourishing in her son.
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