FORT WAYNE — With his ordination to the priesthood set for May 26 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Deacon Jacob Meyer recently shared his reflections of his spiritual journey with Today’s Catholic. Memories of travel, learning administrative duties of the clergy, ministering to the sick, sharing and witnessing with parishioners and youth groups, and moments of sadness and joy were among the milestones Deacon Meyer recalled as he prepared for his religious vocation.
Many of Deacon Meyer’s first experiences involved on his journey to the priesthood began with his home parish of St. Pius X. “Not all seminarians come from such vibrant parishes with such loving people and I realized that right when I got to seminary,” he said.
“Many of St. Pius’ parishioners don’t know that at one point in time I was praying about possibly going into a religious order rather than entering the diocesan priesthood, but it was my love for my parish that made God’s will evident for me that I was called to stay in the diocese. So in a very real way, because of their prayers and support, I am where I am today and so I would like to thank them!” Deacon Meyer explained.
He credits Msgr. Bill Schooler, pastor of St. Pius X, with teaching him all the various aspects of becoming a priest. “At the seminary, you learn how to do all the things a priest does, but a seminarian learns how to be a priest from another priest. Msgr. Bill has been my mentor now for six years and he taught me how to spend myself for the sake of the people entrusted to me. He has always gone out of his way to help me learn all about ministry to every type of person/situation, parish administration, and balanced life of service to the Church and healthy rest,” said Deacon Meyer.
During the summer breaks Seminarian Meyer spent time at various parishes around the diocese.
“I began at St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne, which is set in a beautiful neighborhood and I loved it from the moment I arrived. The pastor, Father Shoemaker, and the parish staff taught me a lot about ministering to the grieving and how to plan funerals,” he recalled.
The following summer Seminarian Meyer had the opportunity to work with parish youth. “I was assigned to St. Charles Parish in Fort Wayne. Father James (Kumbakkeel, parochial vicar) welcomed me and I had a wonderful summer of learning from these three great priests. I had a lot of fun that summer with Vacation Bible School, the youth group and learning from the parish staff doing Baptismal preparation.”
While at St. Charles Parish, Seminarian Meyer had an opportunity to work with Father Phil Widmann at the diocesan museum. “I have always loved history and Father Widmann and the museum have taught me a lot about our diocese. It has been a great honor to help preserve the historical artifacts of the diocese and I have continued helping in the museum to the present day,” said Deacon Meyer.
After being ordained a deacon last May, Meyer was assigned to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. “Father Jim Shafer and Father Drew Curry were so good in helping me learn about the parish and how it functions from the perspective of the ‘big picture.’ Father Jim has a great sense of catechesis and administration and I spent the summer learning from this experienced pastor how to administer a parish and feed the flock entrusted to us.”
A friendship with newly ordained Permanent Deacon Jim Kitchens also developed at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Deacon Kitchens became a mentor in pastoral ministry for Meyer as well.
International travel was among Deacon Meyer’s important milestones on his journey to the priesthood. Travel to Mexico during one of his summer breaks is one of Deacon Meyer’s favorite memories and he recalls the experience with humor and affection.
“When the vocation director, Msgr. Bernard Galic, first called me to tell me I was going to Mexico, I was a little apprehensive because I knew enough Spanish to read the Taco Bell menu, but that was it,” laughs Deacon Meyer.
“When I arrived in Queretaro, Mexico, my host mother was talking a mile a minute and the only thing I knew to respond with was, “si, si, si.” She quickly realized I had no clue what she was saying and we began a process of learning sign language that helped me not only eventually learn a little Spanish, but also become a part of the family there.”
World Youth Day in Spain in 2011 was also a great experience for Deacon Meyer. In addition to enjoying the many events, Meyer was selected to be one of the deacons of the Mass at the Love and Life Center, a large sports arena in Madrid. There he had the privilege of meeting Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Dolan, who was the main celebrant.
As he looks forward to his ordination to the priesthood, Deacon Meyer offers some insight to others thinking about pursuing a religious vocation.
“Pray and spend time with our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament. Go to Confession regularly, and know that you cannot do this alone,” Deacon Meyer reflects.
He concludes by urging those who are considering a religious vocation to talk to a priest. “God calls everyone to a vocation, but no vocation is discovered in isolation. A priest is always involved. Know that there are a lot of people praying for you and that I will be praying for you.”
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