May 24, 2024

Encounter with God in prayer leads future priest to invite others closer to Christ

Transitional Deacon Bobby Vogel proclaims the Gospel during an Aug. 14, 2023, Mass in the chapel of the St. Joseph Retreat and Conference Center in Tipton County in the Lafayette, Ind., Diocese. The Mass was part of the annual archdiocesan seminarian convocation. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Transitional Deacon Bobby Vogel proclaims the Gospel during an Aug. 14, 2023, Mass in the chapel of the St. Joseph Retreat and Conference Center in Tipton County in the Lafayette, Ind., Diocese. The Mass was part of the annual archdiocesan seminarian convocation. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

January 2, 2016.

One date on the calendar, much like any other day.

But, for transitional Deacon Bobby Vogel, that was the day on which his life changed forever. It was the day on which he encountered Christ.

At about 8 a.m. on that day in Dallas at a conference sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), Deacon Vogel, 23 at the time, did what a priest who had heard his confession advised him to do: “Just listen to God in the silence.”

“I poured out my heart to God,” recalled Deacon Vogel.

At the time, he was getting ready to graduate from college, had a well-paying information technology job lined up and lots of friends.

“I had all these things, but I still was not satisfied,” Deacon Vogel remembered. “So, I was willing to consider what God wanted from me. What do you want from my life?”

Then in the silence, Deacon Vogel heard God tell him in his heart, “I love you.”

“It was in that moment, on that morning, that I just wept.”

Those three words from God, “I love you,” heard by Deacon Vogel on January 2, 2016, spurred him on a winding journey to show gratitude to God for his love. That journey will reach a high point—but will not end—on June 1.

That’s the day when Archbishop Charles C. Thompson will ordain Deacon Vogel, Deacon Anthony Armbruster and Deacon Samuel Rosko as archdiocesan priests at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

June 1 is the day on which Deacon Vogel will start in his priestly life and ministry to help Catholics across central and southern Indiana have the same kind of encounter of love with God that so changed his life eight years ago.

‘It catapulted me’

Deacon Vogel grew up in rural Jennings County in southern Indiana, a member of St. Joseph Parish there.

His father Steven was Catholic, but his mother Andrea was not. Yet she was determined that her son would be raised as a Catholic—something for which Deacon Vogel gives thanks today.

“To her, that was something so important,” Deacon Vogel said. “I am so grateful that I was given a moral compass and a really good grounding, a good Catholic sensibility. That’s such a gift that I know I’ve had.”

It’s a gift, though, that he didn’t appreciate as much when he was growing up as he does now. His practice of his faith became irregular in his later high school years, a trend that continued when he was a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and later at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Looking back on that time, Deacon Vogel thinks an intuition he may have had about his priestly vocation led him in part to step away from his faith.

“Frequently when I would go to Mass, they would pray during the petitions for an increase of vocations to the priesthood,” he explained. “Occasionally, my heart would leap up. I felt like [the prayer] was talking to me. I couldn’t explain it. I figured, though, that I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get married.

“So, I figured that I’d stop going to Mass and it would go away. And that worked for a while.”

It didn’t continue forever, though. When Deacon Vogel came to Indianapolis in 2014 to continue his college education, he learned about the Catholic campus ministry at IUPUI, in which FOCUS missionaries were involved.

Getting to know IUPUI students active in campus ministry and finding a spiritual home at nearby St. John the Evangelist Parish led Deacon Vogel to re-embrace his faith—and to take part in the FOCUS conference in Dallas in January 2016.

“It catapulted me,” he said of his prayer experience at the conference. “I knew I wanted to pursue whatever God was wanting and asking of me.”

Celebrating joys, sharing sorrows

So, he put a career in information technology on hold and considered where God might be leading him.

Thoughts of the priesthood arose, and he spoke about them with Father Rick Nagel, St. John’s pastor. But with his return to the faith so recent, Deacon Vogel eventually discerned that his relationship with Christ and the Church needed to mature a little before he explored a priestly vocation more deeply.

So, he turned instead to FOCUS, the apostolate that had done so much to lead him to Christ.

Deacon Vogel became a FOCUS missionary, serving from 2016-18 at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., starting less than a year after his life-changing moment in Dallas.

“I definitely experienced imposter syndrome, because it was all so new,” Deacon Vogel recalled. “… I didn’t think I was qualified at all. But I thought that this is what I was being asked to do. And so, I took a step forward to see what would come of it.”

Like the FOCUS missionaries at IUPUI had done for him, he mentored young adults at Eastern Michigan in living the faith as college students.

“I was learning probably as much as they were,” Deacon Vogel said. “I was just going out there, facing the challenge, trying to grow from it and help others to be bold enough to go and do the same.”

While at Eastern Michigan, Deacon Vogel entered into the happiness and sorrows of the college students there, from weddings to tragic deaths in their families.

“Just getting to celebrate the joys and be with them when they’re grieving and all the things in between—I thoroughly, thoroughly loved that,” he explained. “There was just something so special about getting the opportunity to know people so deeply and to walk with them in their journey. I love that.

“That’s what I fell in love with, walking with others toward Christ. That’s what really drew me to seminary. That’s the thing I’m most looking forward to as a priest, just loving people and walking with them toward Christ, bringing him, his healing and his sacraments.”

‘This is home”

In the fall of 2018, Deacon Vogel enrolled at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology as an archdiocesan seminarian.

During the past six years, in addition to being part of the formation community at Saint Meinrad, Deacon Vogel has served at parishes across central and southern Indiana, including Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, St. Boniface Parish in Fulda, St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County, St. Meinrad Parish in St. Meinrad and St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville.

His first assignment as a priest will be as parochial vicar of St. Simon the Apostle Parish on the northeast side of Indianapolis.

“I’ve fallen in love with the archdiocese and the people here,” Deacon Vogel said. “This is home—anywhere in the archdiocese. This is where I want to spend the rest of my life.”

As Deacon Vogel looks forward to priestly life and ministry, he thinks back to his childhood.

“I remember telling my mom ever since I was young that I wanted to change the world,” Deacon Vogel recalled.

While he values the “hope and optimism” that is part of the “beauty of youth,” the cynicism and jadedness that often come as one grows into adulthood has not kept Deacon Vogel from trusting in the power of grace.

“I’ve seen what God can do through little, weak, pathetic me,” he said. “We’re all so small. We can only do so much. We sin all the time, and yet the Lord can use us in such profound and incredible ways beyond anything we could guess.”

‘A man of community’

Terri French could never have guessed that eighth-grader Bobby Vogel would one day be a priest when she was his catechist at St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County.

“God chooses all kinds of people,” said French, the wife of Deacon Larry French. “I would never have thought that God would have picked this young man who was so shy.”

So, she was happy beyond words years later when she learned that he was considering a priestly call.

“I was elated—elated—when he shared that he was discerning the priesthood,” French said.

She’s confident that Deacon Vogel’s kindness and empathy will help him minister well to people from all backgrounds.

“If you are a highly educated person, he is right there on your level. He can communicate and do well there,” French said. “And if you are a not-so-educated person, but a very good, down-to-Earth person, he can talk to you and make you feel important.”

Seth Slone agrees. He is a former seminarian for the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., who spent four years at Saint Meinrad as a classmate of Deacon Vogel.

“He’s a man of community,” said Slone. “He’s not interested in trying to put on airs. What you see is what you get.”

What Slone got in him was a faith-filled friend.

“He was always able to listen, but not just to me,” Slone said. “He also listened to the Holy Spirit. He always seemed to provide me with just the right step that I needed for growing closer to God.”

Father William Marks, pastor of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs, sees in him a good addition to the priests of the archdiocese.

“As a brother priest, Deacon Bobby will bring a spirit of encountering Christ,” Father Marks said. “He enjoys sharing his experience with people. His compassionate approach to ministry will resonate with parishioners and help foster a sense of belonging and spiritual growth.”

On the verge of his ordination, Deacon Vogel is eager to help Catholics of central and southern Indiana to not only have an encounter with Christ, but then to go forward to help others do the same.

“The Lord is calling us to be missionaries,” Deacon Vogel said, “every single person in whatever particular context our lives are in. We can do things that will profoundly change the course, the eternal destiny of people’s lives.

“Everybody can do this. Everybody can be an instrument for Christ.”

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

More about Transitional Deacon Bobby Vogel

Transitional Deacon Bobby VogelAge: 31

Parents: Steven and Andrea Vogel

Home Parish: St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County

Education: Jennings County High School; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad

Favorite Scripture verse/passage: Luke 6:45b (“From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”)

Favorite saint: St. Francis Xavier

Favorite prayer/devotion: Surrender novena

Favorite movie: the Toy Story series

Favorite authors: J.R.R. Tolkien; Oscar Wilde; Herman Melville; Jesuit Father Gerard Manley Hopkins; Rudyard Kipling; Msgr. Ronald Knox

Hobbies: Exploring new countries; learning linguistic facts about Latin, Spanish or English; reading poetry; hiking; smoking a cigar on a crisp night with a pint or cocktail in hand surrounded by good company; getting to know people over a coffee; making the perfect cup of coffee or shot of espresso; tinkering with electronics, dissecting and discussing a movie just watched with a group of friends.

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