In honor of National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov. 6-12), the following priests submitted reflections on recognizing and answering their call to Holy Orders.
The series was featured throughout the week over the diocese’s social media platforms.
By Father Henry Ussher
I had my call after witnessing the ordination of three priests in my parish, Immaculate Conception Parish, Asankrangwa Ghana in 1983.
When the candidates laid prostrate and all knelt for the Litany of Saints, I felt within myself a desire to be one of them.
I was a catechist by then. I went home that day and told my mother that I want to be a Catholic priest.
True to my words, I sat for minor seminary exams in May 1984, and I entered seminary formation for 14 years (that includes 7 years of high school).
Fr. Ussher is pastor of St. Clement Parish in St. Clement; St. Joseph Parish in Louisiana and the Mission of Mary Queen of Peace in Clarksville.
By Father Matthew Flatley
What I want to communicate most of all is the realization that God had a plan for my life, much to my resistance, and that God was VERY-VERY patient!
The key component of my vocation story is all about the relentless pull or call of the Holy Spirit. The Sprit was very gentle and humble, always respectful of my autonomy, but relentless nonetheless.
Perhaps a significant lesson to be learned from my situation is the fact that if something keeps coming up in your life ... it may well be the Spirit of God knocking at the door.
The other lesson is that vocations may come at a later stage in your life. Perhaps your role as a priest may be Act II.
Fr. Flatley is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City.
Father Christopher Cordes
I started to sense an inclination toward the Priesthood during my freshman year of college.
Faith was already very important to me, and I had become involved with Teens Encounter Christ, attended Mass and other events at the Newman Center at Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State) University, participated in a Bible study with some guys from different churches I met through a friend, and took a course on the History of Religion in America as an elective.
My church/faith-related activities were what I found to be most meaningful and enjoyable. I was reluctant to talk or even think much about the seminary or Priesthood at first because of the commitment to celibacy, but over the next two years it just seemed more and more like I should take a serious look at Priesthood, especially as I got to know some priests on a closer level and got a better sense of what their lives were like.
It was still a long process that continued through the seminary years, and I had to make peace with the commitment to closing off the option of marriage and family, but who I was and what I felt drawn to and inspired by led to ordination 27-plus years ago.
Fr. Cordes is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia and vicar for priests for the diocese.
By Father Thomas Alber
I grew up in a small parish of about 100 families.
I felt called as I served daily Mass. Later as a lector, I felt that God was speaking to me in the readings.
I was encouraged by others to consider Priesthood.
I liked stories of the foreign Missionaries from Peru, and I enjoyed reading the Maryknoll magazine.
I liked the studies in seminary. I found the faith of my parents and our weekly Mass attendance inspiring.
I started thinking about Priesthood in fifth grade in public school. I didn’t feel for sure about God’s call to Priesthood until I was 22 years old.
Fr. Alber is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City and provides ministry to the Hispanic communities of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Ozark and Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia.
By Father Simon Jude Kanyike
At 8 years old, I was allowed to serve at Mass and that was a great score for me as a child growing up with practicing parents in our active parish church.
My favorite role was ringing the bell at the Consecration when everyone was quiet and the Eucharist was elevated in the hands of the priest. For this, I could do anything to serve at more than one Mass on Sunday!
Soon, I wanted to be the priest that celebrates Mass.
My parents called it a childish fantasy that I would outgrow. Later, when I turned 11, a priest friend to my parents visited and I told him, “I want to be like you.”
It was then that he explained to my parents that the Lord was calling me. I was accepted in the junior seminary and it kept getting better and clearer through the formation that God would consider me a priest servant to His Church.
After 17 years, I got ordained in 2005 for the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda.
I am happy to be a priest and am glad that I can serve as a missionary priest for the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Fr. Kanyike is associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia.
By Father Ignitius Nimwesiga
My vocation to Priesthood began when I was a little boy.
I grew up seeing priests visiting our mission church (which they could visit about four times a year) and whenever they were around, everything would be done differently.
It is only then that there would be the reception of Holy Communion, Confessions, and sometimes weddings. And at that point, I wanted to be that man who would do all those wonderful things for people.
When I was in middle grade, my village, which neighbors an army base, received a threat from the rebels who were fighting against the government that it was going to be attacked, so that they (the rebels) could gain access to the army base.
We ran away from our homes and went into hiding. While in hiding, I remember praying to God and promising Him that if He saves my life from that looming danger, I was going to dedicate my life to His service.
I literally did not understand what I was saying and what serving God meant.
When I was in my senior year of high school, whenever I would be going to school, I would pass by the church for morning weekday Masses at least three times a week.
At every Mass, I would find myself asking God to grant me the grace to serve Him but not as a street preacher (I had seen preachers on the streets of my city and I never wished to be like them, though I admired their boldness).
It was one Sunday and during the Consecration, I listened to every word that the priest said. I was amazed that it is only a priest who can say the very words of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus.
It became so clear to me on that Sunday that that was how I wanted to serve God. God answered these prayers, and after high school, I joined a college seminary and since then I haven’t looked back.
Fr. Nimwesiga is chaplain of Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia.