May 27, 2011

'Absolute trust in the Lord': Path to the priesthood stretches around the world for Deacon Dustin Boehm

Transitional Deacon Dustin Boehm holds a Book of the Gospels during the March 2 ordination of Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. Deacon Boehm is scheduled to be ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 4 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Transitional Deacon Dustin Boehm holds a Book of the Gospels during the March 2 ordination of Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. Deacon Boehm is scheduled to be ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 4 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Sean Gallagher

A world class business school. A machine shop. A mountain village in Guatemala. A centuries-old trail in southern France and northern Spain.

These aren’t typical places where a man is formed for the priesthood.

But the time that transitional Deacon Dustin Boehm spent in each of them—along with his experience in the usual seminaries, parishes, hospitals and schools—prepared him over the course of many years for the life and ministry of a priest.

In these many and varied locales, Deacon Boehm learned lessons about humility and goodness that his friends and family say will serve him well as a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

His ordination Mass will take place at 10 a.m. on June 4 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis. The public is welcome to attend.

Being open to the world

The son of Kenny and Kelli Boehm, Deacon Boehm, 27, grew up as a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.

He first began thinking about being a priest when, as a middle school student at his parish’s school, he overheard his music teacher, Jon Thibo, say that he had discerned a possible priestly vocation.

“It piqued my interest,” Deacon Boehm said. “I had never before that considered it. The thought wouldn’t leave my mind, and I started asking some questions about it.”

Kenny Boehm was happy to hear about his young son’s interest in the priesthood.

“I prayed and hoped for it when he first mentioned it to me,” Kenny said in a recent interview with The Criterion. “He said, ‘What do you think?’ And I said, ‘I cannot imagine a better thing that you can do with your life than to give your whole life to other people.’ And that’s pretty much what he’s doing [now].”

But around that same time, Kenny wanted to make sure that his son had firsthand experience of a different way of life.

So he arranged for Dustin to work for a summer in a machine shop that he managed “to let him see what people who work [there] go through every day to put bread on the table, that everything’s not clean and happy and a computer screen.”

Throughout high school, though, the thought of being a priest wouldn’t leave Deacon Boehm. In his senior year at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, he applied to become a seminarian for the archdiocese.

Yet even after his freshman year at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., Deacon Boehm and some friends ran a summertime fence-building business.

“I really did enjoy it,” he said. “Just being able to see your work at the end of the day was really satisfying. And being with friends doing it was a lot of fun.”

Ben Kessler, one of his seminary friends, said that the interest in and the value that Deacon Boehm has for the work that people do in the secular world are good qualities for a priest.

“He has made an effort to keep in touch with the world outside of seminary and, most importantly, with the people he’s serving,” said Kessler, previously a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison, Wis., and now a student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in Stanford, Calif.

Last December, Deacon Boehm made a trip to Boston to visit Kessler and his fiancé, a student at Harvard University’s Business School.

“He had sat down a number of times that week,” said Kessler, “with a group of five or six Harvard Business School students from across the country and, at times, around the world that are really top-notch business professionals.”

Kessler admired this openness to the world in his friend, and said it will be “incredibly valuable in his ministry, particularly when he’s thinking and praying and pondering about serving other people.”

Finding God in work

Deacon Boehm was set to serve others in late 2008 when he traveled to San Lucas Toliman, a village in the mountains of southern Guatemala. He thought that he was going there to work hard, and make a real difference in the lives of the people in that poverty-stricken area.

He soon learned, however, that God had something else in mind for him—a lesson in humility.

“I went down there thinking that I’m going to help the poor—kind of the fixer, the doer, the American man,” Deacon Boehm said. “And I quickly realized that they don’t need me. In fact, [I learned] that I really slowed them down in their work. My reason for being down there had to change.”

While he still worked hard with the villagers, his reason for being there became more spiritual in nature.

“It was like, ‘Where is God in this?’ ” Deacon Boehm said. “The work became an occasion to serve God, and to find God and allow him to find me in it. Instead of me trying to change them and their way of life for the better, it really became a way of me being converted more.”

Deacon Boehm’s mission trip to Guatemala happened during the time that he took a spiritual year from his priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

That same year, he made an 850-mile pilgrimage on foot to the famous medieval shrine of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

“The pilgrimage helped with trust, with absolute trust in the Lord, that he’ll get me through and that he’ll get everyone through,” Deacon Boehm said. “I was walking through countries whose language I really didn’t speak, especially French. I was constantly in situations of great dependence on other people and their generosity and, ultimately, the generosity and love of God providing for me what I needed.”

Being a cheerleader for families

When he returned to the U.S. in the late spring of 2009, Deacon Boehm’s younger brother, Adam, and his wife, Maria, were caring for their baby daughter, Isabella. Less than a year later, Maria gave birth to a son, Killian. And they are now awaiting the birth of their third child in October.

Deacon Boehm has made regular visits to see his brother and his family at their home in Lexington, Ky., visits that he said help him value the blessings and challenges of family life.

“Those kids mean the world to me,” said Deacon Boehm of his niece and nephew. “And I’ve been so blessed these last few years in being allowed to be there whenever I want to watch that young family and just see the struggles, certainly not from the inside of that family, but from a pretty close seat.

“One of the things that I look forward to most as a priest is being a cheerleader [for] families. … I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a husband or wife and, at the same time, be a parent. For me, one of the best things that I can do is to encourage families in what they do.”

From Adam’s perspective, his brother has already been doing this. It was his help and his example, Adam said, that led him to give of himself as much as he has in his life as a husband and father.

“It took a lot of prayer, and Dustin was always involved in that prayer because I saw his transformation,” Adam said. “It was night and day from when I knew him back in high school, and what he is now. That played a major role in my transformation into married life.”

Deacon Boehm’s valuing of family life is also rooted in the example of his parents, who “sacrificed their own dreams, their own time [and] their patience in raising me.

“There’s a real sense of fathering and mothering and care for people [in that example],” he said. “That example is just burned into my memory. And I’m constantly holding myself up to that.”

When she sees how much her son values family life and how much he has grown through his years of priestly formation, Kelli Boehm feels humbled and knows that she can’t take credit for what has happened to Deacon Boehm.

“We were obviously involved in raising him,” she said. “But he chose a path that not a lot of people choose. And the only thing that we did was basically sit back and support him. We said from day one that this decision was between him and God, and we’re here to do whatever we can to help.”

Looking forward to being a priest

Deacon Boehm will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at 5:30 p.m. on June 4 at Our Lady of the Greenwood Church, 335 S. Meridian St., in Greenwood.

“I can’t wait for that moment,” he said. “For so long, it’s been at the hands of these hardworking [priests], and these people in the pews who have also been present and made the presence of Christ so visible in my life.

“To be able to [celebrate Mass] for these people whom I love, who have been tremendous witnesses and examples of love in my own life—my family and my friends, my parish—it’s really just going to be an overwhelming moment.”

In July, he will begin his ministry as associate pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

“St. Monica has existed since way before I was born, and it will go on without me,” Deacon Boehm said. “I just hope that I can somehow fall into the mix of that parish, and help people come to know God in their daily life, in the mundaneness, in the tediousness.”

Father Peter Marshall, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, is a friend of Deacon Boehm who was ordained two years ago. He is looking forward to welcoming him into the archdiocese’s presbyterate.

“It’s a joy to have another brother priest,” Father Marshall said. “Dustin is very excited about beginning his ministry, particularly at St. Monica. He does have a real heart for the people of God, to bringing the Gospel to everybody and caring for them as well.”

“I am very curious about the world,” Deacon Boehm said. “My first priority in the parish after nine years of seminary is to reconnect where people are at. I’m just very curious to see what their lives are like, and how the Lord is working in that.”

(To learn more about Deacon Dustin Boehm and other archdiocesan seminarians, log on to

Deacon Dustin Boehm

  • Age: 27
  • Parents: Kenny and Kelli Boehm
  • Home parish: Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood
  • Seminary: St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Hobbies: Ice hockey, writing, listening to music and hiking
  • Favorite saints: St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: Eucharistic adoration and the rosary
  • Favorite Bible verse: “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope” (Jer 29:11).
  • Favorite books: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein, Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Witness to Hope by George Weigel
  • Favorite movies: The Scarlet and the Black, Bella and Doubt

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