By Jennifer Barton and Jill A. Boughton
At the heart of any vocation is joy. The call to religious life brings joy and spreads joy to others. For Vocations Awareness Week Nov. 7-13, clergy and religious men and women in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend share the role of joy in their vocations.
Msgr. Bernard Galic
After 51 years as a priest and the former vocations director for the diocese, Msgr. Bernard Galic knows a little something about joy-filled vocations.
“I dreamed of being a missionary,” Msgr. Galic disclosed. As a child, he was inspired by Maryknoll magazines that his parents received, which often featured photos of young missionary priests heading off to African countries to spread the Gospel message.
He was ordained in Wisconsin as a Sacred Heart priest. Instead of missionary work, “I was assigned to teach for the first 10 years of my priesthood” at Divine Mercy Seminary in Donaldson.”
It was work he came to love. “I look back on it with joy when I see what has become of many of these men,” he exuded. At a recent retreat, Msgr. Galic was amazed to see the great works that nearly a hundred of his former students have accomplished in their lives.
When the seminary closed, he moved to the life of a parish priest. He became incardinated as a diocesan priest and found great joy in that vocation as well.
“I think the greatest joy of the priesthood is knowing that you’re close to these people for the most important times in their lives: that you can give them what no one but a priest can give them, and that is the sacraments – the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick. Bringing them the grace of God in these important moments was very, very rewarding. And joy-filled,” he added.
But the greatest lesson he has learned is that joy follows obedience. As vocations director, he taught this lesson to the seminarians in whose formation he was instrumental.
“God knows what he’s doing with us. God knows best. And when we can accept that and see God’s will, what He allows in our lives and what He calls us to do with our lives, there’s great joy in accomplishing His will.”
Father Daniel Niezer
Ordained in 2019, Father Daniel Niezer is still relatively new to his vocation. He was installed at St. Dominic Parish, Bremen, just this year as his first pastorship.
“There is an immediate joy that I saw right away when I became pastor here at St. Dominic,” he shared. A parochial vicar, he felt, did not “have the spiritual authority of a father over his sons and daughters, his parishioners. When I became a pastor, I noticed a huge shift in the way I thought about preaching, celebrating the sacraments and offering counsel to many families and individuals.”
One humbling, happy realization has been that his parishioners truly respect the priesthood.
“I have been so amazed by the number of families who immediately welcome me into their family as if I was their own. I hardly know them … yet the love, generosity and acceptance has been an unexpected joy.”
What he most looks forward to each day is the celebration of the sacraments. In the two years since his ordination, his love for the celebration of Mass has deepened.
“When I was first ordained, I was more stressed thinking about saying the right words and preparing the right homily, but now I notice myself entering more deeply into the prayerful mystery of the sacraments. I look forward to this growth year by year.”
Father Niezer encourages young people not to be afraid of following God’s call.
“There is not greater joy than to find and live your vocation for Christ and in the Church. This is something that the world does not see, so I pray that more youths see the great opportunity to stand out as truly extraordinary models of Christian living. Responding generously to God’s call is something that will attract so many to the Catholic faith.”
For those discerning a call to the priesthood, he said: “As priests, we experience in a unique way our sonship to God our Father, as well as share in our Heavenly Father’s role over his adopted sons and daughters. Priests are also adopted in a special way by Mary, the mother of the Great High Priest.”
Deacon William Gallagher
Deacon William Gallagher enjoys wearing his special cross over his street clothes. Not having a habit makes him seem approachable, but strangers who notice the cross ask if he’s clergy. When he identifies himself as a Catholic deacon, they often ask, “What’s that?” It’s an opening for a good conversation, whether it happens in Costco or while he’s walking the dog in his neighborhood.
William and Mary Gallagher have seven children; their younger son is a Holy Cross priest serving in campus ministry at the University of Portland. Most of their six grandchildren are grown; two are students in diocesan schools. Mary is a nurse, chaplain and spiritual director.
After working in the computer industry for 40 years, William became a hospital chaplain. He taught religious education at Christ the King Parish for many years, and he and Mary often talked about the diaconate; but at the time, formation for the permanent diaconate did not exist in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. When formation became available years later, he welcomed the opportunity.
“The doors opened and I walked through.” He found the formation classes rewarding and edifying. Deacon Gallagher was ordained in 2011 and has served at Sacred Heart Parish, Notre Dame, ever since, preaching, visiting the homebound, and doing “anything that comes up.”
Visiting senior citizens is the most joyful and rewarding part of Deacon Gallagher’s ministry. After COVID-19 put it on hold for a season, he said he’s thrilled again to be able to offer a communion service every Monday at St. Paul’s Senior Living Community.
Father Mark Enamali, CSSp
Father Mark Enamali, CSSp, is of the religious order of Spiritan fathers, or the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. He is from Kogi State in Nigeria and was ordained 15 years ago in New Haven, Enugu State. He first came to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 2007 to study theology at the University of Notre Dame after spending a year as a missionary in Tanzania.
He received his doctorate in 2014 and was assigned to St. John the Baptist Parish in New Haven. Then he went back to Nigeria to teach in the seminary for three years before returning to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
While teaching at seminary, he had the opportunity to return to Indiana each summer, going wherever Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades sent him. During those summers, he visited friends that he had made in the area. He is now serving as administrator of Immaculate Conception Parish in Auburn.
Father Enamali first felt called to the priesthood when Canadian Spiritan priests came to serve in his home diocese of Idah. He said, “The first time the thought came to me, I thought to become a missionary, to go far away.”
His vocation was inspired in part by the joy of these missionary priests.
“The Canadian Spiritans worked in the diocese, and when they gathered, they would be so happy and joyous, so that was an attraction to me.”
Now he finds great joy in his own vocation. “I love celebrating the sacraments, especially reconciliation and Eucharist.”
Another aspect of his priesthood that brings him joy is “working with the Scriptures.”
The compliments he receives from parishioners whose lives he has touched through a homily or by other means encourage him in his vocation. He also enjoys meeting with other priests from his order and visiting the friends he has made in northern Indiana.
Sister Karolyn Grace Wertner
There may be no vocation more sacrificial than that of the cloistered life. To give up worldly comforts and conveniences requires tremendous dedication to one’s calling. Sister Karolyn Grace Wertner of the Poor Sisters of St. Clare in Fort Wayne spoke to Today’s Catholic about her vocation to the consecrated life.
She explained that, as cloistered nuns, “We’re here to show that heaven is not boring. In heaven, we’re all going to be worshipping God, we’re all going to be belonging to Him. So, our vocation shows that we want to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that nothing on earth is more important or fills us with more joy and happiness than being in union with Him.”
Additionally, she said, “We’ve given up the ultimate sacrifice of raising our own family. But all these goods of the world — nothing can compare to what’s coming next.”
Sister M. Mercy Briola, OSF
“My greatest joy is knowing I’m right where I’m supposed to be,” said Sister M. Mercy Briola of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka. “God never gives up on me, even when suffering makes me feel like a failure.”
Now in her fifth year as a junior sister, Sister Mercy plans to make her final profession next August. Her vocation is being a nun, but she also feels called to teach and is in her third year teaching math at Marian High School.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, she attended public schools. Her family went to Mass every Sunday, even her nonCatholic father. The real presence meant a lot to her, so she offered every Holy Communion for her dad’s conversion until he enrolled in RCIA after 12 years. But the thought of a religious vocation never entered her mind.
Everything changed when she made a last-minute decision to matriculate at a Catholic college. She first sought comfort in the brand-new chapel due to homesickness and academic pressure, but before long she was spending an hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament. “Some people fall away from their faith in college,” she said. “I fell into mine.”
A Dominican chaplain who arrived her junior year started a eucharistic prayer group. After a month, he told her something Jesus had put on his heart: he asked if she’d ever considered a religious vocation.
She was in a dating relationship at the time and dismissed the idea, but she and four friends eventually began setting aside a weekly holy hour for discernment followed by fellowship. Of that group, one is a Dominican priest, one is married, one single, and one hopes to become a consecrated virgin.
After college, she sold everything and entered a monastic community. However, six months later she was sent home after becoming very ill with meningitis. She couldn’t help feeling like a failure, as if God had left her at the altar.
With only a prom dress and a pair of jeans in her closet, rebuilding her life, health and spirits took time. She found teaching jobs and made a pilgrimage to Poland, home of her three holy heroes: St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pope St. John Paul II, and St. Faustina. Walking in their footsteps felt almost like a rebirth, rekindling hope. She began to believe God might want to offer her a second chance.
Her Dominican friend had a brother from this diocese who suggested the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. When she made a visit, the pieces seemed to fit: the sacrifice of round-the-clock prayer and the joy of teaching. People who visit the convent are often struck by how joyful these sisters are, she said; and Sister Mercy loves sharing life with several generations of women.
Surprised by grace, Sister Mercy said, “Joy is clear evidence of God’s will. Jesus is the source of my joy. I’m deeply loved by Christ, and I love life in this joyful community.”
Father Matt Fase, CSC
A religious vocation was always presented as a viable option in the Fase household in Rockford, Michigan, where Father Fase grew up as the fourth of five children. His three older siblings have married, giving him 10 nieces and nephews. By his senior year in a public high school, he was serious enough about exploring a vocation to the priesthood that he made a visit to Notre Dame’s Old College. The men he met there were full of joy and fervor about what they were doing.
“If they’d been dour and somber, I might not have considered entering seminary,” he admitted, but he moved into Old College as a Notre Dame freshman. Another inspiring occasion was a bonfire on the congregation’s property in LaPorte at the conclusion of a seminary camp week during freshman orientation. The men, who were in various stages of formation, and their formators, were enjoying music, snacks and cigars. They were such joy-filled, authentic human beings, he wanted to join them in figuring out how best to serve the Lord.
He made his final vows in 2014 and was ordained in April 2015. He’s had three assignments since then: parochial vicar at Holy Redeemer in Portland, Oregon, campus minister at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, now parochial vicar at St. Joseph, South Bend.
What gives Father Fase the most joy is knowing that his whole job is bringing Christ to others. “What a beautiful gift to do that all the time,” he said. He also loves moving in and out of peoples’ lives at key moments. A highlight of every morning is walking past the preschool playground on the way to his office; the children crowd the fence to greet him.
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