November 2, 2018

Vocations Supplement

Seminarian grows closer to the priesthood as he nurtures relationships

Providence Sister Teresa Kang practices face painting on Nov. 28, 2017, at Corbe House on the grounds of the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in St. Mary-of-the-Woods. (Submitted photo)

Providence Sister Teresa Kang practices face painting on Nov. 28, 2017, at Corbe House on the grounds of the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in St. Mary-of-the-Woods. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

It’s not unusual for a man called to the priesthood to first think about that possibility when he is in grade school.

It’s a bit more out of the ordinary for a young boy to think about becoming a priest before he’s even Catholic.

But that was the case with seminarian Matthew Perronie.

When Perronie was young, his mother, Kathy Perronie, who had been raised as a Catholic, was not practicing her faith. His father, Brent Perronie, was baptized but not Catholic and wasn’t practicing his faith either.

Through the example of his grandmother, Leona Withem, though, Matthew came to know and love the Church while in grade school. He went with her to Mass each Sunday. That was when he began to think about being a priest.

“Something about the priesthood stood out to me, just seeing what a priest does each Sunday at Mass,” Perronie said. “I thought it would be pretty awesome to do that one day.”

A central part of priestly ministry is to bring people to faith in Christ and to welcome them into the Church.

Perronie has already done that by leading his parents through his example to embrace and practice the faith. They, like him, are members of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

“Parents normally bring their children to the faith,” Perronie said. “But I’ve been given the unique opportunity through God working through me and my grandmother to bring my parents to the faith.”

Relationship skills

Going to Mass on a regular basis with his grandmother helped Perronie as a grade school student come to know the Catholic faith and feel attracted to it.

That led him in the summer before eighth grade to seek to be initiated into the Church through baptism and reception of Communion. This happy event for him took place on April 3, 2010, at St. Malachy Church. He received the sacrament of confirmation the following year.

“I kind of felt at home,” Perronie said. “I realized that God was the one who created me. I was his beloved son after being baptized. In particular, I valued the graces that came from finally being able to receive the Eucharist.”

In the full communion of the Church, Perronie dove into his faith head first, learning more about it and building up a daily schedule of prayer that included the rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet and reflecting on the daily Mass readings.

“It got to the point where it was just too much, and I kind of entered a dryness in prayer,” he said. “So I had to kind of strip some of that away in order to be able to come back to it.”

During his high school years, Perronie came back to prayer by discovering the joy and deep meaning at its root.

“I was able to see that prayer was not just saying prayer after prayer, but building a relationship with God,” he said. “Prayer is to be in conversation with God, to grow closer to him. So when I brought back some of those things, I really focused on listening and being in conversation.”

While building up his relationship with God, Perronie had difficulty nurturing relationships with his peers in school because he was shy and reserved.

“I wouldn’t associate with people out of school,” he said. “I’d go to school, come home and just be by myself with my parents.”

Perronie started to open up to others as he progressed through high school, this partly due to his continued thoughts about the priesthood. Each summer, he participated in Bishop Bruté Days, an annual retreat and camping experience at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis for teenage boys open to the priesthood.

He enjoyed meeting seminarians, the priests on staff there and other boys interested in the faith and the priesthood. These good experiences and his growth in prayer led Perronie to apply in 2014 to become an archdiocesan seminarian. He was accepted and enrolled that fall at Bishop Bruté and the nearby Marian University in Indianapolis.

Father Robert Robeson, Bishop Bruté’s rector at the time, had known Perronie for years through Bishop Bruté Days and celebrating weekend Masses regularly at St. Malachy.

The priest was concerned at first about how the introverted teenager would adjust to life in the seminary.

“He was very, very shy,” said Father Robeson, now pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove. “You had a hard time getting him to talk much at all. Not that he wasn’t engaged. He was engaged. He just really didn’t talk much.”

Father Robeson was pleased to see, though, that Perronie opened up to others at Bishop Bruté.

“His growth over his first two years in the seminary was amazing,” Father Robeson said. “He came out of his shell and became much more socially confident.”

Perronie said it was challenging at first, going from being an only child to “having 40 brothers” as fellow seminarians at Bishop Bruté.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But I really just kind of entered into the life [of the seminary] and made a point to not be in my room very often. I went around talking to people, making friends.”

Being open to others

Building up relationship skills with other people and with God in prayer has helped Perronie grow in what attracts him to priestly life and ministry.

“The external portion—seeing what the priest does and wanting to do that—is still there,” he said. “But it has kind of evolved into wanting to be with people in the most joyful and most sorrowful moments of their lives.

“The priesthood is more than just celebrating the sacraments. It’s also being with people, being present with them and entering into their lives.”

Being present to others starts at home, and while Perronie was growing in his life of faith he was able to see his mother return to the practice of her Catholic faith and his father received into the full communion of the Church in 2015.

“Getting back in the Church and receiving the sacraments—it just seems that everything has come full circle,” said Kathy. “I just feel like Matthew instilled all of this in both of us by setting an example in what he wants to be.”

This experience in his family has given Perronie a perspective that he thinks will help him if he goes on to be ordained a priest.

“I’m able to recognize that not everyone, as they’re getting married and having kids, is interested in the faith or in God and raising their children in the faith,” he said. “But there are always opportunities for God to work later on in life. I want to meet people where they’re at in that kind of situation and to kind of give them my own experience to help them along the way.”

For now, Perronie is continuing on his path of priestly formation. Father Robeson is encouraged by the way Perronie has opened himself to the formation process at Bishop Bruté and now at Saint Meinrad.

“That, in and of itself, is a good indicator that he’d make a good priest,” Father Robeson said. “He continues to work on himself, to grow in self‑awareness and his confidence in being able to minister on behalf of Christ. I’m very proud of him and happy for him that he’s well on his way for ordination.”

Perronie hopes that other young men who think that God might be calling them to the priesthood will open themselves like he has to how discernment and formation can be life-changing.

“Be open,” Perronie said. “Strive to develop a relationship with God. Go further with that and develop it over time. Talk with others. God will show you the way.”

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


More about Matthew Perronie

  • Age: 23
  • Parents: Brent and Kathy Perronie
  • Home parish: St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg
  • Education: Tri-West High School in Lizton; Marian University and Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary, both in Indianapolis; Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture passage: Psalm 139
  • Favorite saints: St. Jude the Apostle
  • Favorite prayer: The rosary
  • Hobbies: Reading, fishing, swimming, walking, following the Indianapolis Colts

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