October 31, 2014

Religious Vocations Supplement

Seminarian sees childhood desires fulfilled in priestly formation

Seminarian James Brockmeier prepares the altar in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad during a March 27 Mass. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Seminarian James Brockmeier prepares the altar in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad during a March 27 Mass. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

God willing, seminarian James Brockmeier will be ordained a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis next spring.

He would then be expected to be ordained a priest a year later.

It’s a vocation that he started thinking about when Brockmeier, 24, was in grade school. But the steps he has taken along the way were always measured, never going beyond where he felt God was calling him to be at that moment.

Those steps began in the Catholic home in which Brockmeier grew up in Covington, Ky.

“We always went to church on Sunday. That was a constant,” he said. “I remember my parents gave me a lot of little pieces of religious art. I would hang them up in my room. There were little statues of Mary or of the Sacred Heart of Jesus around our house. It was a normal thing.”

Brockmeier responded positively to this Catholic environment, intrigued at an early age by the faith.

“There was an importance and homeyness to going to church and being a member of the Church that always struck me,” he said. “Everywhere I would go, there was the Church and I could appreciate that. I was receiving a lot from the Church when I was growing up. I wanted to be a part of handing it on.”

The possibility that handing on the faith could involve the priesthood occurred to Brockmeier at a young age.

“I can remember being in the fourth- or fifth-grade religion classroom,” he said. “I can see it [in my mind] today, the pages in the religion book where it talked about the priesthood and religious life. I just thought that it was so interesting that there were people who do this. … There were people who dedicated their whole lives to the faith. That really struck me.”

Nonetheless, as Brockmeier continued to embrace his faith as a teenager and became involved in a helpful youth group, he didn’t discern a particular call to the priesthood but more to ministry in the Church in general, possibly to teaching religion in a Catholic high school.

That’s why he was attracted to Marian University in Indianapolis, whose San Damiano Scholars Program for Church Leadership trains lay young adults for ministry in the Church.

He was accepted into the program and enrolled at Marian in 2007.

“The fact that this campus had young people who wanted to study and work for the Church, as well as young people who were thinking about the priesthood really attracted me,” Brockmeier said. “There seemed to be so much going on.”

During his four years at Marian, he became involved in catechetical ministry at St. Mary and St. Mark the Evangelist parishes, both in Indianapolis.

Between these experiences and getting to know several seminarians, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis began to feel like home for him.

“There was a lot going on in the archdiocese,” Brockmeier said. “I kind of sensed a lot of excitement all over the place about where the Church was going and what the Church was doing.”

At the same time, he showed leadership among his fellow students at Marian, according to Mark Erdosy, director of Marian’s San Damiano Scholars program.

“By the time that he was a senior, he had a great grasp of philosophy and theology,” Erdosy said. “He was the one person students could always count on to be able to help them understand it, no matter what class they were taking, philosophy or theology. James had a knack for taking complicated concepts and simplifying them so people could understand them.”

Throughout much of his time at Marian, the priesthood remained in the back of Brockmeier’s mind. That began to change during the fall semester of his senior year when he began to consider more seriously the possibility of becoming a seminarian.

Over Christmas break, he shared his thoughts with then-archdiocesan seminarian Benjamin Syberg, a friend of Brockmeier from Syberg’s days at Marian and Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

“In a moment of sheer joy, I hugged him,” said Father Syberg, who was ordained a priest last spring. “We both were very excited. We had hoped he would. But to finally hear that he was going through with it was a big moment for us.”

That affirmation helped Brockmeier along his path of discernment.

“Seeing him and his enthusiasm got me thinking about it more,” he said.

He later sought out Erdosy’s advice.

“Instead of talking to me about it, he picked up the phone and called the vocations office,” Brockmeier said. “To this day, I thank him for that. [He said], ‘You should absolutely have this conversation with the vocations director.’ He really nudged me along the road.”

He has now been an archdiocesan seminarian for more than three years and, in that time, has received priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, managed the seminary’s pub and pizzeria, been involved in parish ministry and been trained as a hospital chaplain.

“I continue to live the daily life of the seminary, the life of prayer, of classes, the jobs I have here, the pastoral ministry,” Brockmeier said. “And from day to day, in that prayer the Lord is calling me to this. This is where the Lord is calling me today.”

Brockmeier has also found that God has deepened the thoughts and desires that first captured his imagination as a grade school student.

“It’s transformed over time from an attraction to it being a real part of my identity,” he said. “I’ve been living this now for three and a half years, daily doing the work and the prayer, receiving the grace, thanks be to God. It’s gone from something I’m hoping for to something that attracts me to something that the Lord is forming me into.”

Brockmeier knows that the priestly identity that is being formed in him will be centered on bringing other people closer to Christ and the Church, something he has wanted to do since he was a child.

“I’ve learned here that the priestly call is that you daily bring people back to prayer, the prayer of the Mass,” said Brockmeier. “I’m attracted to teaching and preaching and pastoral care. But these things are vehicles to draw people more closely to the Mass and the sacraments where God is waiting to give them grace.”

(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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