May 17, 2019

The joy of trusting in God: Deacon Gillmore’s journey to priesthood takes flight while at Air Force Academy

Transitional Deacon Vincent Gillmore prays with fellow seminarians on April 20, 2018, in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. Deacon Gillmore will be ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 1 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The liturgy is open to the public. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Transitional Deacon Vincent Gillmore prays with fellow seminarians on April 20, 2018, in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. Deacon Gillmore will be ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 1 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The liturgy is open to the public. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By John Shaughnessy

Vincent Gillmore kept opening different doors as a young adult, all the time hoping that one would lead to his greatest desire.

It’s a desire that many people long for—a life filled with meaning, a life that will give a true sense of belonging.

So after high school, Gillmore headed west to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. He believed its intensive training and education would not only lead to a great way to serve his country and support his family when he got married, it would also forge a deep brotherhood for him.

Yet after two years at the academy—including being a part of the track and cross-country teams—Gillmore still didn’t feel that sense of belonging he craved.

So he asked for—and was given—permission to spend two years in Guatemala doing mission work, helping malnourished children get the food and education they need. The work inspired him, but the longing for more was still there when he returned to the Air Force Academy in 2010 to begin his last two years of education there.

Then came the moment that changed everything for Gillmore.

It’s the moment that opened the door for him to pursue the calling that will lead him to be ordained a priest for the archdiocese—and an Air Force chaplain—on June 1 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Opening the door to the priesthood

The defining moment in his path to the priesthood came in early 2011 when he attended a national conference of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Denver. The conference theme was, “Answering the Call.”

“It re-opened everything about a discernment to the priesthood,” recalls Deacon Gillmore.

That consideration had begun when he was 10, a time when he was intrigued by taking part in a vocations retreat that was led by a young, athletic priest who combined a program of physical activities with a focus on prayer, eucharistic adoration and daily Mass.

At different times in his young life, he explored a calling to the priesthood, but the connection always disappeared until the FOCUS conference.

“I told myself, ‘I’m going to see it through this time,’ ” he said. “By spring break of junior year, I was leaning toward the priesthood.”

He still had to finish his education at the Air Force Academy. He also had to decide where he felt called to serve as a priest.

The third of 12 children in his family, he had been born in Indianapolis, but his family moved to Georgia when he was 7 so his father could pursue a new job. Still, he has deep, extended family ties in Indianapolis, so he chose to seek to become an archdiocesan seminarian after graduating from the academy in 2012.

It was at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad that he found the sense of meaning and belonging that he desperately wanted in his life.

“Through seminary, I have a better idea of where that sense of belonging and identity comes from,” he says. “I think it comes from being willing to give yourself over to Christ and other people. That requires some sacrifice—sacrifice in daily friendships, sacrifice in being able to lay down your will for someone else’s good. Through that, you grow in friendship and mutual trust.”

He’s also grown in his relationship with God.

“Being truly settled, being truly at peace is doing the will of God in the best way you know how. That takes some time. That takes believing through all the difficult situations.”

Living the Gospel

Now 30, Deacon Gillmore has known his own share of difficult situations, experiences that he believes will shape the approaches he hopes to bring to his priesthood.

They start with “the ability to listen to people on a deeper level, and an overall attitude of attentiveness to reach out to people in ways that are helpful.”

He also hopes for “courage in taking more ownership and responsibility for things that come under” his direction.

His greatest hope is to be “more of a companion to others, to get them in touch with Jesus, to let Jesus touch them with his healing power.”

After his ordination, Deacon Gillmore will begin a path far different from most priests in the archdiocese.

For the first three years, he will primarily serve the archdiocese while fulfilling 24 days a year as a chaplain at an Air Force base. After those three years, he will spend the next nine years as an Air Force chaplain, taking assignments that could lead him to be deployed anywhere around the world.

People who know him well believe he will be successful in both ministries.

“When I observed him at the Air Force Academy, he clearly showed he is a man who truly gives of himself and is a dedicated servant, living the Gospel,” says Deacon Robert Waller, a Catholic deacon at the Air Force’s Cadet Chapel who also was an academic advisor to Deacon Gillmore.

“Not only is he a joy to be around, he is a role model for others. He is a gentle man who is very approachable. In addition, he was a well-rounded student-athlete and a leader who has a deep spirituality. With his background, he will be able to relate to a wide variety of people. And he’ll understand the unique challenges that military members face, along with his willingness to be flexible to accommodate the ever-changing schedules of his parishioners and his military comrades.”

The joy of trusting in God

Creating a sense of community is a key focus of Deacon Gillmore’s approach to life, says his brother Robby Gillmore.

“Every encounter with another human being is an encounter with Christ, and Vinny reminds me of that a lot,” says Robby, a nursing student at Marian University in Indianapolis. “I would describe Vinny as first and foremost a man interested in forging community. He wants to know what people are passionate about and why.

“He also knows how to ask questions that guide others to consider the heart of the matter, which will serve him well both in the sacrament of reconciliation and in handling parish affairs.”

Deacon Gillmore’s personality shines through in a conversation in which he smiles often. The smile flashes again when he is asked what he is most looking forward to about becoming a priest.

“The joy of all kinds of surprises,” he responds. “The joy of trusting that God is always going to surprise me in the right way. In that joy, I’ll be able to invite other people into God’s perfectly timed surprises.”

For Deacon Gillmore, the joy also comes in knowing that God directed him to the place where he belongs. He believes God invites all people to that place.

“By being a good Catholic and staying in the sacraments, that has really helped me. If you’re trying to be a good Catholic, you’re doing what God wants you to do. So you keep the door open for God that way.

“If you keep the door open for God, he’s always going to let you know what you need to do next.” †


About Deacon Vincent Gillmore

  • Age: 30
  • Parents: David and Sandra Gillmore
  • Home parish: St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis
  • Education: Warner Robins High School in Warner Robins, Ga.; United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.
  • Favorite Scripture passage: “So many! Of late, I like John 3:30, ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ ”
  • Favorite saint: “Again, many. But lately, I would say Saint Ignatius of Loyola and St. Joseph.”
  • Favorite book: The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Favorite movie: The Dark Knight
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: The Examen
  • Hobbies: Running, reading, sketching and listening to music

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