Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer
October 31, 2023 // Diocese

How Two Young Priests Are Inspiring Vocations

Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer

This past May, Bishop Rhoades named Father Jonathan Norton and Father Daniel Niezer to their current roles as Diocesan Director of Seminarians and Diocesan Promoter of Priestly Vocations, respectively. In their roles, they will walk alongside current seminarians and those considering a priestly vocation.

“For the first time in recent diocesan history (at least), we have expanded our vocations office to include two priests instead of one,” Father Niezer said.

Father Norton and Father Niezer grew up in Fort Wayne, with Father Norton attending Bishop Luers High School and Father Niezer attending Bishop Dwenger. Neither are far from their time in the seminary themselves, as Father Norton was ordained a priest in 2015, while Father Niezer was ordained in 2019.

In their new roles, each works to gain more priests for the diocese. Father Norton’s role as Director of Seminarians is to shepherd those currently in formation at seminary. Father Niezer’s role as Promoter of Priestly Vocations works to recruit new priests. They’ve only been in the roles for a few months. 

“In this role (Director of Seminarians), I will walk with men who have decided to respond to God’s calling and enter seminary,” Father Norton said. “I help them through the application process and discernment by the bishop on whether they are accepted by our diocese for formation.”

Bob List
Father Jonathan Norton, Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw, is the new Diocesan Director of Seminarians.

Father Niezer explained: “My goal is to ensure that there are no obstacles between God’s invitation and our response. I want to make sure that no vocational call goes unanswered. One of my greatest fears is to think that God may be calling young men and women to beautiful vocations, but yet those individuals may not be listening nor in a place to receive those great calls.”

Joshua Schipper
Father Daniel Niezer, Pastor of St. Dominic in Bremen and the chaplain of Marian High School in Mishawaka, is the new Diocesan Promoter of Priestly Vocations.

The two also remain in their current pastoral roles, with Father Norton serving as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw and Father Niezer remaining as Pastor of St. Dominic in Bremen and the chaplain of Marian High School in Mishawaka.

Juggling the responsibilities of the roles can be challenging but also rewarding, the priests told Today’s Catholic.

“I am still adjusting to this new role, balancing responsibilities between the parish and the Vocations Office,” Father Norton said. “But I am honored to have this responsibility, because it’s a unique ministry that few priests have.” 

And serving in two roles can cultivate valuable crossover, he added. 

“I am excited for how my parish will come to love these men because they care about what I do,” Father Norton said.

For the two young priests, guiding other young men through their discernment brings such hope and joy, they said.

“In just a few months of being in this role, I’ve had numerous formal conversations with great young men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood here in our diocese,” Father Niezer said. “That has been a very unexpected gift!” 

Like other vocations within the Church, the priestly vocation is holy and urgent.

“When we live our vocation with great faith and dedication, God will work marvelous gifts within us, and we will become saints,” Father Niezer said. “Whether you are faithfully living your vocation to the priesthood, religious and consecrated life, or to holy matrimony, God will reap an abundant harvest, and we need many more laborers for his harvest.”

Father Niezer continued: “The call is not only urgent, but it is a great joy and blessing to accept God’s invitation. We lose nothing in answering His call, but gain everything that is of value to God in this beautiful life.”

Father Norton and Father Niezer each said they rely on the support of their brother priests in doing this important work. 

“I have been most grateful to our pastors and priests in the diocese who have been tirelessly working to cultivate the Christian faith in their parishes and have been referring young men to us in the hopes that they may discern a vocation with us here in the diocese,” Father Niezer explained.

Like in any facet of life or line of work, Father Norton and Father Niezer said these new roles in the diocesan Vocations Office require them to lean on God.

“Ultimately, this is the Lord’s work, so I want to be sensitive to the spiritual aspect of this work by inviting our people, families, and parishes to simply pray more for vocations, make more frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and practice their faith with greater zeal and devotion in all of the ordinary circumstances of their life,” Father Niezer said.

The work of formation and seminarian support carries much anticipation.

“And I look forward to walking with these men in their formation, especially since (God willing) they will be ordained for our diocese and join this great presbyterate,” Father Norton said.

To learn more about vocations in our diocese, visit

Prayer for National Vocations Awareness Week
(November 5-11)

God our Father,

we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons, and consecrated persons.

Send your Holy Spirit to help others to respond generously and courageously to your call.

May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth and young adults.

Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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