July 6, 2018

Serra Club Vocations Essay

Priest helped student grow in faith through sacraments, preaching

By Ella Hagenow (Special to The Criterion)

Ella HagenowAll throughout my life, I have gone to a Catholic school and had a Catholic background.

While many people helped me along my faith and life journey, one priest sticks out when I am asked (about who had influenced me the most). I refer to him as Father Bill, and he was the priest for most of my time at my grade school. He may not know it, but he has made a huge difference in my life.

Going to Mass every Sunday and listening to Father Bill Marks helped me to stay close to Jesus, and it always helped me to focus on all the good things I had in my life. (Father Marks is currently pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish and previously led St. Simon the Apostle Parish, both in Indianapolis.)

When I was in grade school, we had religion class and we also participated in three major sacraments: first reconciliation, first Eucharist and confirmation. Father Bill was the priest who helped me with these sacraments.

Now whenever I participate in reconciliation or the Eucharist, I think about him and how he helped me through these big steps in my faith journey. Through his kind and gentle words, he had a large effect on my faith life by guiding me through these major events.

One of my favorite things about Father Bill was the way he gave his homilies. When the readings read at Mass and the messages behind them were above my thinking level growing up, Father Bill always helped me to understand them.

For each homily he gave, he had a prop to relate the message to our daily lives. By using these props, such as a stuffed animal or cookies, he helped the people in Mass to feel more comfortable.

First timers, especially, may be intimidated or feel overwhelmed by some stories in the Bible. Growing up I knew what my beliefs were, but not all of the readings always made sense to me. Father Bill helped me to understand the message and feel comfortable in Mass by having a casual and laid-back approach to the sometimes complicated messages.

To this day, I still imagine props that Father Bill may have used if he were to have given the homilies I hear. This helps me have a positive attitude and understand the message Jesus tries to communicate to us through the readings and parables.

Without Father Bill, I may have come to a completely different place emotionally and mentally. Father Bill taught me many lessons about having a positive attitude in life and toward my faith.

I doubt he knows the impact that he has made on my life, but I do not know where I would be if I had experienced some of my first sacraments with any other priest.

Father Bill is someone who I look up to every day and who influences many decisions in my life.

(Ella and her parents, Chris and Laura Hagenow, are members of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. She completed the 10th grade at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis last spring, and is the 10th-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2018 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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