May 10, 2024

A question at the heart of life shows the influences that have shaped a future priest

Deacon Anthony Armbruster, left, elevates a chalice at a Mass on April 30, 2023, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany. Celebrating the Mass is Father Joseph Feltz, right, the parish’s pastor. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Deacon Anthony Armbruster, left, elevates a chalice at a Mass on April 30, 2023, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany. Celebrating the Mass is Father Joseph Feltz, right, the parish’s pastor. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By John Shaughnessy

It’s a question everyone should consider at some point.

Who are the people who have influenced you the most, who have helped you become the person you are, who have guided you to where you are meant to be in your life?

As you consider that question in terms of your own life, listen to transitional Deacon Anthony Armbruster talk about the people who have shaped him toward his destiny of being ordained as a priest for the archdiocese on June 1 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

It’s a list of many of the people who have made him who he is, a list that also gives revealing details into what will be in his heart as he serves the people of the archdiocese as a priest. (Related story: ‘He wants to win hearts, minds and souls for the Lord’)

The faith of family

The connection between grandparents and grandchildren can be one of the best bonds in life, and that reality shines through in Deacon Armbruster’s memories.

“My Papaw, Bernard Hession, had a tremendously deep spirituality, which came from his life as a farmer,” Deacon Armbruster recalls. “He depended on our Lord’s providence for him to provide for his family. He married my Memom, Jane, in 1953, and they spent over 60 years together, before her death in 2017. They lived their vocation of marriage along with their love for their home parish—St. Malachy in Brownsburg.

“I would also like to acknowledge my grandma, Anne Armbruster. She married my Grandpa Armbruster in 1954. On May 26, 1987, Bob Armbruster was killed in a car accident. My grandmother would spend the next 34 years as a widow, but she would never have said she was alone.

“Her deep faith before my Grandpa’s death sustained her those 34 years, often remarking, ‘God gave me 30 wonderful years with Bob, and he asked me to give him back to him.’ This devotion to our God, along with his Blessed Mother, was something she passed on to her children, grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.

“Finally, my parents, Robert and Marijane Armbruster, along with many aunts and uncles and parishioners of St. Malachy, had an early influence on my life of faith. My parents carried on the faith of their ancestors, and they passed it on to us. They especially taught what it means to be loyal to one’s home parish by giving of one’s time, talent and treasure.”

The challenge of a friend

During his time at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Deacon Armbruster has become close friends with Father Devereaux King, who was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Nassau in the Bahamas last year.

“I will never forget one thing he told me: ‘None of what you do here in seminary matters unless you cultivate a friendship with Jesus Christ,’ ” Deacon Armbruster recalls. “The greatest fruit of my six years of formation is the deep friendship I have with our blessed Lord. I realized early on if I cannot be honest with our Lord, I will never be honest with myself. This challenged me to turn to Jesus at all times and for all things.

“I know that as I move away from the stability of seminary life to the unknowns of diocesan priesthood, I must trust in the great High Priest who has chosen me to do his work. And his work for me is to give glory to God in all that I do—and to work and pray for the salvation of souls.”

God’s Christmas gift

“Like most things in my life, my love for Christmas comes from my late Memom Hession,” Deacon Armbruster says. “Christmas at the farm and the days leading up to Christmas—it was her favorite time of the year. She would bake nonstop, shop at her favorite store, L.S. Ayres, and of course, go to Christmas Eve Mass. However, I think my love for this time goes beyond pure nostalgia. There is something inherently beautiful that the God of the universe became a helpless babe. God knows how much we love babies that he came as a baby.

“Our Lord’s nativity sets the tone for how we are to love our blessed Lord. Yes, I love decorating for Christmas, making homemade desserts, celebrating with family and watching those nostalgic Christmas movies. But nothing brings joy to my heart than singing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ on Christmas night. That song—my favorite—has such an emotional and spiritual component. After all, who is ever the same after they come and adore Christ the Lord?”

The death of an uncle

“In the fall of 2023, my family was dealt a huge blow when my mother’s oldest brother, Mike, was diagnosed with stomach cancer,” Deacon Armbruster recalls. “This was a fast-moving cancer that ended up taking his life eight weeks after his diagnosis. Toward the end of his life, I came home and offered prayers for the dying for him. Before I did that, many of my aunts, uncles and cousins filled his hospital room. I felt the pressure of leading my family through this prayer for him, and it got overwhelming.

“I began repeating over and over, ‘Lord, give me the graces to do what you ordained me to do.’ Our good God gave me the graces to do those prayers well, and he gave me the graces I needed to preach his funeral Mass. It was a moment that significantly formed me. In a moment of tragedy, God gave me the words of comfort and hope that my grieving family needed to hear.”

The devotion of St. Bernadette

“On the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in 2020, I watched The Song of Bernadette for the first time at the invitation of Father Peter DiMaria, who was a spiritual director at that time at Saint Meinrad. The life of Bernadette fascinated me, and I was moved by the movie to research the real person. As I began to learn more about Bernadette, I started seeking her intercession in my prayer. This intercession led me to draw closer to our Blessed Mother. Both of these holy women have led me closer to Christ.

“They are a great reminder that devotion to the saints always leads back to Christ. Mary as Mother keeps me close to her divine Son, where Bernadette is almost like my older sister. Being the oldest in my family, I am blessed to have a spiritual older sister who challenges me to persevere in my prayer life.”

The joyous example of mentors

Deacon Armbruster’s path to the priesthood has been influenced by many priests through the years, including his great-uncle, Benedictine Father Julius Armbruster.

“Not only do I have Father Julius’ chalice, the Benedictine spirituality he lived influences my spirituality today,” Deacon Armbruster says.

He also credits two priests from the archdiocese as having an especially powerful impact on his faith journey.

“When I look back at my early childhood years when I considered the priesthood, I remember what attracted me most was the joy Father Dan Staublin exuded in his priesthood,” Deacon Armbruster says about his first pastor at St. Malachy. “He always had a smile on his face, especially when he preached and while he celebrated Mass. He also gave me my first Communion, and I recall he made that Mass special for me and my family.”

Regarding his years as a student at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, Deacon Armbruster recalls the influence of Father John Hollowell.

“I remember having many conversations with him,” Deacon Armbruster says. “Father Hollowell’s influence led me to a greater respect and reverence for our eucharistic Lord. Also, like Father Dan, he loved being a priest.”

The wisdom of a pope

“I really hope my own personal testimony could be the primary way I lead people to God,” Deacon Armbruster says.

“Pope Benedict XVI remarked in his encyclical, ‘Deus Caritas Est’ [‘God Is Love’], ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’ [#1].

“I am a witness to this encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.”

The start of his encounter with Christ began in 2017 when he was the IT director for St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis.

“I made it a point to arrive to the parish at 7 each morning, to spend an uninterrupted 45 minutes with our eucharistic Lord,” he recalls. “That was the encounter with the divine that Pope Benedict XVI envisioned. I hope my witness to the encounter will move others to have their own encounter.”

The support of the people in the parishes where he has lived and served

“I just want to thank the parishes that have hosted me in my time in seminary—St. Mary in Rushville, St. Mary-of-the-Knobs in Floyds Knobs, Our Lady of the Greenwood in Greenwood, St. Luke the Evangelist in Indianapolis, and SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi in Greenwood and St. Martin of Tours in Martinsville,” he said. Deacon Armbruster’s first assignment as a priest will be as parochial vicar of the last two parishes.

“All of these assignments, along with my years spent at Saint Meinrad, have prepared me to be the priest God has called me to be. I also cannot thank enough my home parish, St. Malachy, which has loved and supported me since I was reborn in the waters of baptism.”

The influence of family, friends, mentors, saints, a pope, parishioners and God himself—all will be in Deacon Armbruster’s heart on his ordination day. So will be the one approach to life he has learned from all of them.

“A life with Christ makes our life worth living.”

(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit

More about Transitional Deacon Anthony Armbruster

Transitional Deacon Anthony ArmbrusterAge: 28

Parents: Robert and Marijane (Hession) Armbruster

Home Parish: St. Malachy in Brownsburg

Education: St. Malachy School in Brownsburg, Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad

Favorite Scripture passage: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” (Jn 20:21)

Favorite saint: St. Bernadette Soubirous

Favorite prayer or devotion: Liturgy of the Hours and Divine Intimacy, a book of meditations

Favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life

Favorite authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Also, Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Pope Benedict XVI

Hobbies: Camping, working at his parents’ house, driving

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