June 10, 2016

2016 Ordinations: Ready to serve God’s people

‘Light of Christ’ leads transitional Deacon James Brockmeier on the road to the priesthood

Transitional Deacon James Brockmeier prepares to proclaim the Gospel during the chrism Mass on March 22 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Transitional Deacon James Brockmeier prepares to proclaim the Gospel during the chrism Mass on March 22 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By John Shaughnessy

Transitional Deacon James Brockmeier loves movies, especially coming-of-age films where the young main character is initially pictured as shy and uncertain before embracing a moment that reveals his growth and conviction.

At 26, Deacon Brockmeier had one of those moments in his own life at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis in November of 2015. He had been chosen to proclaim the Gospel and serve at the conference’s closing Mass in Lucas Oil Stadium, sharing the word of God with 26,000 people from around the country and the world, including a cardinal, 18 bishops and 250 priests.

Before the Mass, the thought of speaking at “the biggest experience of being at Church” he’s ever had was nerve-racking and intimidating for him. But when the moment arrived, he found an inner calm—even with a large camera boom close to his face, projecting his image onto big screens inside the stadium.

As he looked out on the youths and remembered being at the same conference when he was 14, he had one prayer for them.

“In the midst of this huge celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus is giving himself to us for the whole Church, but he’s also calling each person to receive the Eucharist and be close to him. It was my prayer that they could feel that kind of closeness to the Church—that the Church is huge and they’re part of it.”

On June 25, Deacon Brockmeier will celebrate his place in the Church when he is ordained a priest for the archdiocese. His ordination will come five years after a major turning point in his life—a night during his senior year in college when he returned from a date.

“Really juicy stuff here,” he says with an easy laugh as he prepares to share the details of that evening.

Two roads, two possible futures

The date in early 2011 had included dinner and a movie, and Deacon Brockmeier recalls it as “a really good time.”

As he drove home after saying good night to his date, he suddenly saw the two most likely roads for his future.

One was to follow the plan that brought him to Marian University in Indianapolis—to become a high school religion teacher or youth minister, and to keep open the possibility of marriage and family someday.

The other road led to the priesthood. It was a consideration he first had when he was 15 and he heard a talk by a vocations director. That consideration resurfaced just weeks earlier when he talked with a friend who had graduated from Marian the previous year: Ben Syberg, now an archdiocesan priest.

“At the time, he was a first-year seminarian at Saint Meinrad [Seminary and School of Theology],” Deacon Brockmeier recalls. “He said he loved Saint Meinrad, and I should think about the seminary. It stuck in my mind.

“After the date, the two possible futures were very tangible. I knew what was at stake. God reached out to me at a transition time in my life and made it really easy. I really felt God drawing me to the priesthood. It was just a moment of freedom and clarity.”

‘None of it was an accident’

One of Deacon Brockmeier’s favorite movies offers an insight into him as a person—and a perspective on his journey to the priesthood.

I Am David is the story of a 12-year-old boy who has lived his entire life in a Communist, forced-labor camp in Bulgaria. In 1952, a prison guard helps him escape and directs him to begin a journey to Denmark that unexpectedly leads the boy to a reunion with family.

“It’s a very human story of learning to trust people and discover the good in the world,” Deacon Brockmeier notes. “It’s his story of seeing things in the world for the first time, of needing people and being helped by people as he returns to his family.”

While Deacon Brockmeier says there “are obviously no parallels in the story to my life,” the themes of the movie resonate with him.

“I have been reflecting about how many people have walked with me on my journey to the priesthood,” says Deacon Brockmeier, whose life as a seminarian has led him to serve in the parishes of Holy Family in New Albany, St. Boniface in Fulda, St. Meinrad in St. Meinrad and the parish that he considers home, St. Mark the Evangelist in Indianapolis.

“Community means a lot to me. Relationships mean a lot to me. I think about the parishes I’ve been a part of, my seminary community, my friends and family—all the people the Lord has given to me in my life. I see that none of it was an accident. These are the people who have showed me the faith, taught me the faith, showed me the community. They’ve been a great gift for me. And I hope I’ve been a great gift for them.”

‘He feels others’ pain’

His gifts as a priest will be numerous, says Bob Kattau, a member of St. Mark Parish who has seen Deacon Brockmeier come of age in the past five years.

“We have a group that goes out to breakfast periodically with the priests and the deacons,” Kattau says. “James has come a long way since we first met him. He was one of the shyest guys. In the past four years, he has really come out of his shell. He’s outgoing and friendly, and he has a wonderful singing voice. He’ll be a priest you can go out to lunch or dinner with and just talk and laugh.”

Kattau especially recalls the impact Deacon Brockmeier made when a bus of St. Mark parishioners visited Saint Meinrad Seminary.

“He met everyone and gave the tour,” Kattau says. “You couldn’t ask for a better guide. We refer to him now as one of the parish sons. We think he’ll make an excellent priest.”

So do his parents, who live in the Covington Diocese in northern Kentucky, where Deacon Brockmeier grew up and attended Covington Latin School as a teenager.

“He has an ability to empathize with others,” says his mother Norma. “He feels others’ pain, and he responds to that in a loving way. He was always there for his friends in high school and college, and he helped them with their faith.

“The sacraments also mean a lot to him. That’s one of the reasons he wants to be a priest—to minister the sacraments to people, baptizing them, marrying them, being there for them in the most important points of their lives.”

His father Don adds, “Even in high school, James always strove to build community. He was president of his senior class and president of student council. He was always pleased when the class came together.”

Future parishioners can also expect two other qualities when he becomes their priest, says Katie Hibner, a friend from their days at Marian University.

“He has a dry sense of humor that surprises people,” says Hibner, a member of St. Mark Parish who teaches religion at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. “He’s also a very gifted public speaker. I’m just amazed at the homilies he gives, and the connections he makes from the Gospel to the world outside the church doors.”

Sharing the light and love of Christ

Deacon Brockmeier offers his own vision of his priesthood and the Church. It flows from a memorable scene during a pilgrimage he made as a seminarian to England, France, Italy and Switzerland.

The scene unfolded as he entered Sainte-Chapelle (“Holy Chapel”) in Paris.

Deacon Brockmeier was soon drawn by one of the stunning features of the chapel: the 15 stained-glass windows—each measuring about 50 feet high—that depict 1,113 scenes from the Bible.

“Each of these stained-glass windows was handmade,” he says. “The theology of the space is that the light of Christ reaches us in the Scriptures. We sit in the midst of the word of God, and God’s light shines through these stories.

“It really communicated the beauty of the word of God. And it’s inspiring to look at the potential of the Church to create a place in the world where the light of the Gospel can shine. We’re called to create this beautiful thing in the world.”

Deacon Brockmeier can’t wait to follow that call as a priest. He has built a foundation for his future by helping with parish youth groups, providing campus ministry at a college, and visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes.

“New priests tell me, ‘You’ll love it.’ It really has to do with the fact that the people of God are so generous with their priests and allow them to enter their lives. That’s a great honor. My prayer is that the Lord gives me the grace to love the people I see every day in my parish. I’m looking forward to sharing Christ’s love.”

He pauses for a moment before adding, “I just think Christ is so much closer to our lives than people think sometimes. I want to help them see that closeness.”

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

More about Deacon James Brockmeier

  • Age: 26
  • Parents: Don and Norma Brockmeier
  • Home Parish: St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis
  • Education: Marian University in Indianapolis and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture passage: “My favorite Scripture passage is always changing with where God is speaking to me at different times in my life. Right now, my favorite passage is Luke 24:32, ‘Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” This passage comes at the end of the Road to Emmaus story. The disciples have just realized it was Jesus walking with them.”
  • Favorite saint: “St. Edmund Campion. He was a priest who continued to minister to his people despite persecution and was eventually martyred for refusing to renounce the faith.”
  • Favorite prayer: “My favorite prayer is the Jesus Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I like to pray to Mary that she may open my heart to receive Christ’s love and give Christ’s love.”
  • Favorite book: “There is a little book by Pope Benedict XVI, Called to Communion. To me, it is a cross between a theology book and a spiritual book, because it talks about how the life of the Church and the world is centered in the Eucharist.” 
  • Hobbies: Fishing, golfing, watching movies.

Local site Links: