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Project Andrew gatherings present joys of priesthood

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)


Young men of the Diocese of Sioux City took a step towards following God’s call for their life by attending a Project Andrew gathering.

Two events were recently held in the diocese. The first was on Sept. 7 at Sacred Heart Church in Laurens and the second was Sept. 21 at St. Mary Church in Sac City. A third Project Andrew gathering is planned for 6 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.

At the first gathering, there were 10 young men in attendance along with priests, deacons and others.

Project Andrew

At each gathering, Evening Prayer was offered in the church. Then dinner was served followed by Father Brad Pelzel, director of the Office of Vocations, talking to the young men about a vocation in their lives. He challenged them to think about God’s call.

“The number of our seminarians, which had been increasing, has taken a dip,” said Father Pelzel. “We want to regain that momentum. This is a format where the parish priests contact the young men. If they know them, they say, ‘I’ve recognized priestly qualities in you.’ If they don’t know them, they say, ‘Your name has been recommended to me by this person as a person who possesses the qualities, talents and personality that great priests have.’”

Each of the priests present are invited to share one of the joys or blessings of their priesthood. Father Pelzel pointed out that regardless of what the priests might be planning to talk about, if someone else says what they were going to say – visiting the homebound, hearing confessions, saying Mass – they choose another joy to share.

“They do a beautiful job of filling it out and presenting, in a very relatable way, both their priesthood and the joys they have experienced,” said the vocations director.

Bishop Walker Nickless was also present at each gathering and addressed the young men and answered questions.

“They look to the bishop as the person who they will be working under,” said Father Pelzel. “The bishop is the spiritual and canonical leader of the diocese. The young men look to him for his words, his wisdom and his approachability. It is important that the guys, both meet the bishop and get a sense that it could be a great blessing to be a priest working with him.”

Valuable experience

Father Ed Girres, pastor at St. Cecelia in Algona and St. Michael in Whittemore, organized for six young men from Bishop Garrigan to go with him to the gathering in Laurens – four from St. Michael’s Whittemore, one from St. Joseph, Bode and one from Immaculate Conception, Graettinger.

“Project Andrew is a great opportunity to say to young men in high school that your teachers, pastors and priests see in you the qualities that would make for a good priest,” said Father Girres. “The program emphasizes that we will find the greatest happiness in doing God’s will.”

He added wherever the young men go after high school, Project Andrew’s message is that “the most important question for a young person to ask is – ‘What is God’s will for me?’ If it’s marriage, that’s great; to be single, that’s great; to be a priest or religious, that’s great.” 

Mark Fakler, a senior at Bishop Garrigan and parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Graettinger, was asked to attend Project Andrew. He said he has “lot of respect for the priesthood and thought it would be a good thing to attend. I liked the stories that the priests told about what they’ve done so far in their priesthood.”

Fellow Bishop Garrigan senior Zach Kollasch thought it seemed like a good idea to attend the gathering along with his twin brother, Tony. Father Merle Kollasch, retired priest of the diocese, is their grandfather’s cousin.

He had encouraged the young men to the event.

“I enjoyed the prayers and the stories that the priests told, especially the memories they shared about their callings,” said the Whittemore St. Michael parishioner. “We’re all called to a vocation, whether it is the priesthood or married life. It is good for us to learn about the options and then God will help us figure it out.”

Father Tom Flanagan and Father Benjamin Madanu from St. Joseph Parish in Milford along with two young men from the parish, Tom Mayer and George Delaney, participated in the Project Andrew evening in Laurens as well.

 

“The evening is a good way to bring young men together who are interested in possibly exploring a vocation to the priesthood,” said Father Flanagan. “The opportunity to meet with the bishop, some pastors and other young men of the diocese who might be considering the priesthood is a valuable experience.”

Mayer and Delaney also found it helpful. Mayer learned from Project Andrew that “the seminary is not only about becoming a priest but about finding the path in life God calls us to take.”

“It was a fun night with the bishop, priests and other young men,” said Delaney.
Father Madanu expressed his gratitude for the evening, saying, “I felt it was a great initiative by Father Pelzel, the vocations director, to organize such a great program to help the young people be aware of the need of the church.”

He added, “There are three things which made me feel that this get together is so great – the priests who took the initiative to motivate those young men to come; the work of Father Brad, his input and sharing at the gathering; and finally the sharing of Bishop Nickless which is so inspiring.”

For more information, contact Father Brad Pelzel at the Chancery in Sioux City, (712) 233-7522 or bradp@scdiocese.org.

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