Rev. Mr. Christopher Hoffmann to be ordained to Priesthood June 1


Bishop Earl K. Fernandes needed a deacon to assist him at a Mass for the 10th anniversary of the Swahili Catholic Community in Columbus, Ohio.

“Why not?” said Rev. Mr. Christopher Hoffmann, a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and candidate for the Priesthood for the Jefferson City diocese.

He expected it to be a one-time engagement but wound up assisting at four or five more Swahili liturgies in the 12 months since he was ordained a transitional deacon.

“Linguistically, it’s not something I expect to be involved in very much back home,” he acknowledged. “But it was in the mode of saying ‘yes’ to those little opportunities to be a bridge-builder wherever God calls us.”

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann is relying on God’s constant help in conforming him to the likeness of Christ.

“When someone meets a priest, that ultimately should mean meeting Christ in the particular form of who that priest is,” said Rev. Mr. Hoffmann.

“The priest doesn’t lose his individual personhood or his particular traits or likes and dislikes,” Rev. Mr. Hoffmann explained. “But really, the underlying features of every priest should be Christlikeness.”

He realizes that that’s an incredibly tall order.

“That’s where grace comes in,” he said, “and the Holy Spirit and the strength of the sacraments.”

In the affirmative

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann describes his journey to Priesthood as “a steady stream of yeses.”

He was born and raised Catholic in Sedalia, the older of two sons born to John and Linda Hoffmann.

He went to Mass with his family every Sunday and attended Sacred Heart School from kindergarten through high school.

He was active in sports and Scouting.

He was an altar server and later an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

While studying agricultural engineering and minoring in Spanish at Iowa State University in Ames, he became active in a variety of student organizations around campus and at the Catholic Student Center.

He got to know the university’s Catholic chaplain, whose humor and zest for life helped him relate to young people.

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann got to study in Brazil twice, including during World Youth Day — Pope Francis’s first — in 2013.

Attending Mass with the new pontiff and an estimated 3.5 million young people from all over the world substantially broadened Rev. Mr. Hoffmann’s perspective on the Church’s universal nature.

“Even in a different language or cultural expression, we are all part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” he said.

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann was studying in Iowa State’s Catholic Student Center one day when the chaplain invited him to join a Sunday evening Priesthood discernment group.

He joined fellow students in discussing articles and chapters from books, going on retreats and visiting a seminary.

“The more I learned, the more I thought that God may be inviting me to be a priest,” Rev. Mr. Hoffmann recalled.

He found out that seminaries are for men who are not necessarily certain of a priestly calling but are open to actively discerning God’s will for them.

“And I began realize that several attributes of the Priesthood seemed to match the skills God gave me,” he said.

Planting seeds

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann began the application process several months after graduating from Iowa State.

Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos welcomed him as a candidate for Priesthood and sponsored his enrollment into Conception Seminary College in Northwestern Missouri.

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann completed the pre-theology program there in two years.

Shortly thereafter, he entered a seven-month pastoral internship at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia, the largest parish in the diocese.

He had been there a short while when the COVID-19 pandemic hit full-force, confining many people to their homes and causing one of the largest disruptions in the sacramental life of the Church in 100 years.

“It was nice to not be in an academic setting when COVID hit — for my mental stability as much as my discernment of the Priesthood,” he said.

The situation required persistence and creativity to help people who could not worship together in person remain connected to one another and the Church.

“It’s easy in some ways to see the person in front of you and to minister to that person,” he noted. “But, how do you minister to those who can’t be in front of you?”

He worked with the parish youth group and young adult group to find ways to help the whole parish stay connected throughout the pandemic.

“For me, that was a very good, informative, formational experience,” he said.

It reminded him that there’s no way in this life to know the full impact of one’s own efforts to help people get closer to God.

“Sometimes, you get great feedback or a thank-you, or you see a change in some person,” he stated.

“Sometimes, you’re just planting a seed and letting the Holy Spirit work that encounter, and being okay with being just a little part to that,” he said.


Rev. Mr. Hoffmann enjoyed studying Spanish in high school and college.

“Then, it kind of lay dormant for a few years until I entered seminary, and the need for Hispanic ministry in our diocese became clear and very relevant to me,” he said.

Picking up where his formal studies had left off, he set about learning a more pastoral approach to Spanish and working toward the day when he’ll celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving in Spanish.

As a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, he spent a summer completing a Spanish-immersion program in Wichita, and helped out on weekends during the academic year in a parish where almost all parishioners are Hispanic.

“For me, it’s back to ‘How can I be less and less of an obstacle to people’s relationship to God through my ministry?’” he said.

Getting better at speaking and understanding Spanish is only part of the equation.

“It’s also the experience,” he said. “Being honestly interested in others and trying to learn more about them and their experiences and how their culture has contributed to their relationship with the Lord and how they learn, how they worship, how they pray.”

Promoting reconciliation

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight ordained Rev. Mr. Hoffmann a deacon on June 3, 2023.

Being a deacon has made his past year of seminary formation unique.

“You’re still in formation, still taking classes, still helping out at a parish,” he said. “But your intentionality has increased — that it’s not only helping others as a person, but helping others as Christ the Servant.”

He’s also gotten to preach homilies at Mass in the Proto-cathedral of St. Peter in Jefferson City, where he spent last summer, and in St. Agnes Church in Columbus, Ohio.

In part due to the cycle of Sunday readings and in part due to prompting from the Holy Spirit, he has preached extensively on reconciliation and the healing of broken relationships.

“We all need some relationship in our life to be reconciled,” he noted. “Especially to God.”

When preparing a homily on a Scripture reading, he’s learned to look for things that strike him enough to share with others and help them recognize themselves or their situation in that passage.

“And then, how can they respond in love and charity to whatever particular theme that stands out?” he said.

He often recognizes the Holy Spirit at work — specifically, strong nudges in a certain direction — while he’s preparing a homily.

“It definitely is helpful when you take those little nudges and go with them,” he said. “Because they’re not truly my words but God’s. So how do I get less and less in the way of his words?”

With God’s help

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum on May 11, receiving a Master of Divinity, Bachelor of Sacred Theology, and Hispanic Ministry Field Education Certificate.

Looking back on his diaconal ordination and ahead to his priestly ordination, he is struck by something both rites have in common.

“The bishop asks if you are willing to carry out your ministry in imitation of Christ, and the response is, ‘I am with the help of God,’” he noted.

“It’s a recognition that yes, I am fully consenting to this, but it is really nothing of my own accord that is going on,” he said. “It is all the work of God, who I am a minister of and for, but not because of anything I have done that has not been given by him.”

Father Mark Smith, with whom Rev. Mr. Hoffmann spent two summers in parish ministry as a seminarian, will ceremonially help him put on his priestly vestments.

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann said what he’s currently looking forward to the most about Priesthood are the sacraments of healing: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick.

“They’re not very complicated rites,” he noted. “They’re often done in very simple, out-of-the-way places.”

The confessional is usually not ornately decorated, and Anointing of the Sick is often given in people’s homes or in hospital rooms.

“But they are two instances when you are bringing people back to God and his mercy, preparing them to meet him face-to-face when this phase of life is over,” said Rev. Mr. Hoffmann.

He emphasized that his priestly formation will not be completed when he is ordained.

“This is just a new chapter of formation,” he said. “Like with a marriage, growth and discernment don’t stop on the wedding day. You’re still getting to know God and your spouse in marriage.

“Everyone is called daily to give their little ‘yes’ — ‘God, what do you want from me today?’” he stated.

He pointed to Jesus’s Parable on the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-17).

“The vine does not grow grapes, the branches do,” Rev. Mr. Hoffmann noted. “It’s humbling to recognize that all we have is from God, and he chooses our lowly branches to bring forth fruit.

“So, to be humble but trusting and relying completely on God so that we can nourish all that he nourishes us with, through our fruits to others,” he said.

The future priest’s favorite prayer is St. Charles de Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment, which includes:

“Whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures.”

“You have to give yourself totally over to God,” Rev. Mr. Hoffmann noted. “Whatever you hold back from God, you can’t, in turn, give to others.”

To other men who think God might be calling them to Priesthood, Rev. Mr. Hoffmann counseled that discernment is a long journey.

“But keep moving toward the Lord,” he said. “And don’t be surprised if there are unexpected things along the way — little quests that come up along the journey.”

Rev. Mr. Hoffmann asks for prayers for him not to get caught up in doing, but to always remain in and with the Lord.

“That’s my big prayer: to be truly present,” he said.

He’s convinced that people can help God answer that prayer.

“Get involved!” he said. “We all have gifts. We’re all the Church. So, don’t be afraid to use your gifts, especially in the parish, however God has given them to you — not for your own good but for the growing of the community and the building up of the Church on earth.”