May 22, 2015

Deacon Andrew Syberg awaits ordination knowing he and God ‘are on the same page’

Deacon Andrew Syberg smiles after being ordained a transitional deacon at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad on April 26, 2014. Deacon Syberg will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin on June 6 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Deacon Andrew Syberg smiles after being ordained a transitional deacon at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad on April 26, 2014. Deacon Syberg will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin on June 6 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

(Editor’s note: At 10 a.m. on June 6, three men are scheduled to be ordained priests at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis: transitional deacons Michael Keucher, Adam Ahern and Andrew Syberg. This week, The Criterion features a profile of Deacon Syberg. Next week, we will feature Deacon Ahern. Deacon Michael Keucher was featured in the May 15 issue.)
 

By Natalie Hoefer

When Deacon Andrew “Andy” Syberg first told his younger brother Benjamin, who was then a seminarian at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, that he had decided to pursue the priesthood, the younger brother wasn’t sure what to think.

“At first I thought he was joking,” said Father Benjamin Syberg, now associate pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “And then I got kind of mad at him. I said, ‘This is my life! Don’t mock it!’ ”

After all, the brothers had talked in the past about Andy becoming a priest, but had decided that was not God’s plan for him.

Instead, Deacon Syberg earned a degree from Purdue University and went on to a supervising job with good prospects for moving up the ladder.

So what was it that led Deacon Syberg from a career track in management to his upcoming priestly ordination on June 6?

‘Is this what God really wants?’

According to his father, Keith Syberg, Deacon Syberg “always had a good faith.

“He was one of those guys in college who always went to Mass on Sunday, reminded others to go, and drug guys to church once in a while.”

But becoming a priest?

“That was not part of what we saw,” Keith admitted.

Deacon Syberg’s mother, Kathleen “Kathy” Syberg, noted that “there was a period late in high school when it might have crossed his mind, and it crossed my mind. But I kind of thought it was a phase.”

Deacon Syberg agreed he did consider the priesthood briefly during his later years at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

“Vocations were pretty commonly discussed in our parish,” he said of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, where he grew up. “Father [Jonathan] Meyer was the associate pastor, and was always very encouraging about guys to pursue a vocation to the priesthood.

“But I wasn’t too serious about it,” he admitted.

He studied at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., earning a degree in organizational leadership and supervision in 2005.

The college graduate took a job as a shipping and receiving supervisor at a scrap metal factory on the east side of Indianapolis.

“It was a good job, and I had a good future in the company,” Deacon Syberg said.

But the thought of the priesthood came back to him again after only about six months on the job.

“I began to think, ‘Is this what God really wants me to do with my life?’ ” he said. “Then my first thought was to priesthood.”

The progression from there was rapid.

“I talked to the priest in my home parish, then I talked to the [archdiocesan] vocations director, then four months later I was driving down the road to Saint Meinrad to be a seminarian,” he said.

His parents were only mildly surprised by his decision.

“My wife and I had gone on vacation,” Keith recalled. “When we came back, Andy talked to us and said, ‘I just want to let you know I met with the vocations director.’

“We were fine with that, and happy about it. It didn’t shock us when it happened, but it wasn’t something we could have predicted.”

‘A bridge to bring people to Christ’

Deacon Syberg’s former associate pastor, Father Meyer, was thrilled with the news.

“I remember when he told me that he had finally made the decision [to enter the seminary],” said Father Meyer. “I was to say the least ecstatic, not only for the Church but for Andy saying ‘yes’ to the Lord, that there’d be tremendous joy in his life and in the lives of those he serves.”

The priest had already seen this quality of joy in Syberg the summer before, when the young man helped with an archdiocesan youth program, the Homeland Mission Project, over which Father Meyer was director at the time.

“It was in that week that I saw in Andy a true desire to serve,” he recalled.

“But I also saw the great affinity he had in his ability to work with young people, to be positive, engaging and encouraging, and seeing the zeal he had in his faith. That was a sign to me that God might be calling him.”

According to Deacon Syberg’s family, his ability to relate to others goes beyond working with youths.

“He worked with kids and loved that,” said Keith. “He worked at a nursing home and loved that. He has a sense for people of all ages, and a connection with others that will be invaluable.”

Kathy agreed, describing her son as “the kind of person who walks in the room and the room lights up—you feel a rush of energy.”

Father Syberg said that description is accurate and authentic.

“Andy isn’t someone who puts on airs,” he said of his brother. “He’s real and relatable, funny, kind. He works well with others. He brings life to whatever he does.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get along with my brother, yet he’s still just himself.”

Father Syberg also points out the advantage of such a personality in terms of the priesthood.

“As priests, our humanity is a bridge to bring people to Christ,” he said. “Andy really wants to draw people close to himself so he can draw them close to Christ.”

According to Father Meyer, that desire flows from the deep love Deacon Syberg has for Christ, the sacraments and the Church.

“During his seminarian formation, I was going down [to Saint Meinrad] to see him [in] his first year,” recalled Father Meyer.

“I went down into the chapel to do a holy hour at 6 or 7 a.m., and the only other person there was Andy.

“I said it was good to see him in the chapel, and he said, ‘There’s no better place to be.’

“He has a tremendous desire to preach and teach,” Father Meyer continued. “He definitely wants to be a priest who leads people to worship the Lord.”

‘A good place to be’

Deacon Syberg cites his parents and brother as sources of inspiration for his path to the priesthood.

“My parents were my first teachers of my faith,” said Deacon Syberg, the middle of seven children. “Growing up, it was always important to them, being at Mass, taking faith seriously.

“And my younger brother [Benjamin], who was ordained a priest last year, he was a big part [in my decision], too.”

Father Syberg, five years younger than his soon-to-be-ordained brother, feels a special bond through their mutual calling to the priesthood.

“It’s amazing for me that my big brother is [about to be] my peer,” he said. “There’s only so many ways that someone outside the priesthood can understand what our life is like. We priests have a connection. But that [Andy and I] get to do that as brothers is a very rare and very great blessing.”

For a short while, there was a possibility that such a connection wouldn’t come to pass. During his fourth year in the seminary, Deacon Syberg had doubts.

“I left [the seminary] for one year and was teaching [at Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis],” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I was called to be a priest.

“But taking that time away for a year was actually pretty important. My path might have had a few extra steps, but it was right for me. It was the path that God put me on.”

Now, as his ordination draws near, Deacon Syberg said he “can’t wait.”

Those who know him are just as excited.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Kathy. “But he’s where he needs to be. He’s happy, and if he’s happy, I’m happy.”

Kathy and Keith said they feel blessed to have two sons in the priesthood.

“It’s extremely humbling,” said Keith. “We were just the everyday, walkabout family, like thousands of others who live their faith. You know you didn’t [cause their vocation], that God picked them.”

As for Father Syberg, he said he has “more joy for Andy’s ordination than my own, [as] I learn more and more what an incredible life we get to live as priests.”

As the ordination draws near, Deacon Syberg said he turns to one of his favorite Scripture passages, a verse that will appear on his ordination prayer card: “Have no anxiety at all …” (Phil 4:6).

“I think God wants me to be a priest, and I want to be a priest,” he said. “That’s a good place to be when you and God are on the same page.”
 

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


More about Deacon Andrew Syberg

  • Age: 32
  • Parents: Keith and Kathleen Syberg
  • Home Parish: Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood
  • College: Purdue University in West Lafayette
  • Seminary: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture verse: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
  • Favorite saint: St. Teresa of Avila
  • Favorite devotions: The rosary and praying the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Favorite authors: G.K. Chesterton and Robert Hugh Benson
  • Hobbies: Playing basketball, reading, watching sports—especially the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Cardinals

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