October 28, 2016

2016 Vocations Supplement

Six brothers enter more deeply into family, faith through the priesthood

Fathers Andrew and Benjamin Syberg, left, Anthony and John Hollowell and Doug and David Marcotte are all smiles on June 25 in the rectory of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis after Father Anthony was ordained a priest. That ordination rounded out three sets of brothers ordained for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2009. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Fathers Andrew and Benjamin Syberg, left, Anthony and John Hollowell and Doug and David Marcotte are all smiles on June 25 in the rectory of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis after Father Anthony was ordained a priest. That ordination rounded out three sets of brothers ordained for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2009. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

He had planned this moment for months, had thought about it for years. What would he say in this profound moment in his life and the life of his brother that both would remember for the rest of their lives?

Yet when Father John Hollowell came to his younger brother, Father Anthony Hollowell, to give him a sign of peace minutes after he was ordained a priest, all of his planning disappeared and he said words that he never considered.

“I love you.”

This moment, which Father John described as “a blessing of the Spirit,” happened on June 25 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis when Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin ordained six men as priests for service to the Church in central and southern Indiana.

When Father Anthony Hollowell became a priest that day, he filled out three sets of brothers who have been ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2009. (Related: Brother priests offer advice to parents to foster vocations in the home)

All priests share a common brotherhood in their deep bond of ordained life and ministry. Fathers Anthony and John Hollowell, David and Doug Marcotte and Andrew and Benjamin Syberg experience it at an even deeper level as brothers. And they hope their witness will deepen the faith of archdiocesan Catholics, and encourage them to make their families the seed bed of future vocations.

(Click on the photo below for a larger version w/ captions, or continue reading)

Archived photos of the brothers

‘Love fights’

But while they recognize the importance that growing up in faith-filled families had on their future as priests, the priests acknowledged that growing up together came with more than its fair share of scuffles.

“Love fight,” said Father Anthony while reflecting on the times when he and three of his brothers would wrestle their oldest brother John.

“In our family life growing up, we fought a lot,” Father Anthony went on. “But, in my mind, it was never outside of the context of our love for each other. You could stretch it at times. But, even in our worst fights, … there was always a deep love there.”

Fathers Doug and David were the only children in their family, and were born less than two years apart.

“Just being the two of us, we played together quite a bit,” said Father Doug, pastor of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Augustine parishes, both in Jeffersonville. “But being brothers, at times it ended up with a dispute and a fight.”

Brothers can also be “partners in crime” in both their youth and adulthood, as Fathers Andrew and Benjamin found out when they were classmates for a period while in priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

“We got into a little trouble,” Father Benjamin said with a laugh. “We’d have too much fun sometimes. There’d be some slapping and giggling with us sitting in the back of class from time to time. We got along so well.”

‘God is very rich in his blessings’

In the midst of all the fun times and fights they’d have as children, the brothers also had the faith planted in them by loving parents who then nurtured those seeds with love, but also in other ordinary ways.

One was an uncompromising dedication to attending Mass on Sunday.

“We were at Mass every single Sunday, unless you were bleeding or dying,” said Father Doug, who was ordained in 2013. “You were there.”

“If we were on vacation, Dad was going to find us a place to go to Mass,” said Father Anthony, who is pursuing graduate studies in Rome.

Another way that the faith was planted early on in these priests was simply through their parents’ example of living out their faith and their vocation to marriage.

“That was the first vocation that we were exposed to, and it was a very solid one,” said Father Andrew, associate pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

His brother recalled the influence of his parents’ dedication to spending an hour in adoration of the Eucharist each week at 2 a.m. on Tuesdays in a perpetual adoration chapel.

“Even as a kid, not being all that prayerful, I knew that my parents prayed and I knew that it was important,” said Father Benjamin, who was ordained in 2014 and serves as administrator of Our Lady of the Springs Parish in French Lick and Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish in Paoli. “I believe that so much grace over the years has come from their continued dedication to do that. God is very rich in his blessings when we continually turn to him in that kind of way.”

The Marcotte brothers also saw in their parents a witness to the importance of service in the Church by “being active in a variety of things” at St. Michael Parish in Greenfield where they grew up.

“They both spent time in giving to God,” said Father David, who was ordained in 2014 and serves as administrator of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Martinsville. “That helped us to think about what ways we could give of ourselves to the Church as well.”

‘Sometimes, we need each other just to be a brother’

As young adults, each of the brothers came to discern that God was calling them to serve as priests.

The brothers who were ordained second acknowledged some influence on their own discernment from those that preceded them in the seminary.

“Tacitly, it had some effect on me in terms of getting to know seminarians and what they were like,” said Father Andrew, who was ordained in 2015. “I’d meet different priests. I saw more of what seminarian life was like than your average guy would who was working and didn’t have a sibling involved in formation.”

Father Anthony became a seminarian for the archdiocese just four months after his brother was ordained in 2009.

“Things happened around that ordination that started stirring spiritually,” Father Anthony said. “I attribute it to that ordination Mass and his Mass of Thanksgiving.”

At the same time, he and the other brother priests recognized that their individual discernment was their own.

“I looked up to [Father John] in many ways growing up,” Father Anthony said. “But when it came to discernment, it was pretty personal.”

When they were in priestly formation, the brothers were a support for each other.

For Father Benjamin, being at Saint Meinrad together with his brother “was like home.

“Just the fact that my brother was there gave me so much life and kept me grounded,” Father Benjamin said. “Someone who knows everything about me was always around the corner.”

The Marcottes, however, were separated by an ocean, with Father Doug in formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and Father David at Saint Meinrad. And the Hollowells were divided by time, with Father Anthony not becoming a seminarian until after his brother was ordained.

Yet the support was still there. The Marcottes had online video chats through Skype. Father John, already ordained, appreciated being able to share his concrete priestly experiences with his brother who, as a seminarian, could only speculate about what it would be like to be a priest in the future.

“For me as a priest to be able to confirm those things for him was really helpful, as other priests did for me,” said Father John, pastor of Annunciation Parish in Brazil and St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle. “But when it’s coming from your brother, that’s awesome.”

That support has continued since the brothers have entered into priestly life and ministry.

“Sometimes, we need each other to be another good priest to talk with,” said Father Benjamin. “And sometimes, we need each other just to be a brother. The fact that that’s the same thing is an unbelievable source of support.”

That mutual support took on a special poignancy for the Marcotte brothers last December when their father, William Marcotte, died.

“It was obviously a different experience for us as priests,” said Father David. “We were able to support Mom in a different way. At the same time, we’re still her sons. And he was our Dad. We had many of the same emotions. Like anyone, you still struggle with the same things.”

The faith that they’ve grown in through the priesthood, which was nurtured in them as children by their parents, was a source of strength for them in that time of shared grieving.

“There is a comfort that comes from our faith, because we have this hope that this is not the end,” said Father Doug. “While it is still sad and there’s still grief very much involved, it’s not something that crushes us.”

Where vocations are found

Now that all three sets of brothers are serving as priests, they see a helpful meaning in their shared ordained life and ministry for the faithful of central and southern Indiana—the importance of the family.

“That is where vocations are found, that’s where they’re discovered, that’s where they’re fostered, that’s where they grow,” said Father Andrew. “That’s where it starts. The family is so important to vocations, whether it’s married life or [religious life] or the priesthood. Parents are the driving force behind that.”

Father Benjamin agreed.

“It’s about the family,” he said. “And, to go deeper, it’s about marriage. Two people who love each other completely and live that out in the Church are the greatest thing that can produce vocations to the priesthood.”

The importance of families to vocations, the Church and the broader society should lead the faithful to do all it can to bolster them, Father Doug said.

“I don’t think we are going to solve the priesthood crisis—or the marriage crisis—without strengthening our families,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that there are not priests who come from less than ideal family situations.

“But, I think we do have to acknowledge that strong families help people to be able to say, ‘Yes,’ because they’ve been formed day in and day out.”

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


Related: Siblings in priesthood, religious life support each other in ministry

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