Chase Hilgenbrinck: From The Pitch To The Priesthood
Top A's prospect enters priesthood
January 23, 2010 ESPN.com
As a top prospect for the Oakland Athletics, outfielder Grant Desme might've gotten the call every minor leaguer wants this spring.
Instead, he believed he had another, higher calling.
Desme announced Friday that he was leaving baseball to enter the priesthood, walking away after a breakout season in which he became MVP of the Arizona Fall League.
"I was doing well at ball. But I really had to get down to the bottom of things," the 23-year-old Desme said. "I wasn't at peace with where I was at."
A lifelong Catholic, Desme thought about becoming a priest for about a year and a half. He kept his path quiet within the sports world, and his plan to enter a seminary this summer startled the A's when he told them Thursday night.
General manager Billy Beane "was understanding and supportive," Desme said, but the decision "sort of knocked him off his horse." After the talk, Desme felt "a great amount of peace."
"I love the game, but I aspire to higher things," he said. "I know I have no regrets."
cleats for collar – College football player to tackle priesthood
By Gretchen R. Crowe
Arlington Catholic Herald (www.catholicherald.com)
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Arlington Catholic Herald) – During his
college career, seminarian Ben Kessler has always been up on the
latest priest jokes. That's because the 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound
21-year-old spent the last four fall semesters not only studying
the gospels, but also studying playbook Xs and Os while starring
as a defensive end for the football team at the University of St.
Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
He attends St. John Vianney College Seminary on the university's
campus and also takes classes at the university. He is studying
to be a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wis.
Kessler was at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria Feb. 4 to
discuss the relationship between his two great loves, God and football,
which he said many consider to be polar opposites.
"The stereotypical seminarian is seen maybe as a nerdy guy,
real calm, real giving," Kessler said, "whereas a football
player is seen as 'in your face' – a dumb jock."
But Kessler argued that the two professions have much in common.
He said there was a "fraternal aspect" – men sharing
a bond together – that rings true for both seminarians and
football players, and that the two groups of men are both "changing
"Putting the two together creates a better person," he
Through athletics, Kessler said, he has tried to get closer to
Christ, whom he compared to both a football player and a seminarian.
He is the Christ who throws the money changers out of the temple
(Jn 2:13:16) and also the Christ who is love (1 Cor 13:3-13), he
"How in the world can Christ be a tough guy, whipping the
guys in the temple, and also be love?" Kessler asked.
Because he preaches the truth and he does it in a pastoral, loving
way, said Kessler, whose talk was sponsored by the local organization
Catholic Athletes for Christ. The football player said it is up
to Catholics to "meet Christ where he's at" with the sacraments,
particularly confession and the Eucharist. He urged those present
to "step up to the challenge."
Sponsored by the local organization Catholic Athletes for Christ,
Kessler isn’t a typical college senior. According to the group,
Kessler is believed to be only the second man in the last 20 years
to have played college football while studying in the seminary.
After discerning his vocation since he was in the fifth grade,
Kessler arrived at St. Thomas and said he “felt a great peace”
inside his heart.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be a priest, but I
know that was where God was calling me,” he said. Fully expecting
to stay at the seminary for two months at the most, Kessler will
graduate with a four-year degree in May. He said his time at St.
Thomas has taught him to “see the world with the lens of Christ.”
Kessler, along with teammate Billy Schreiber, who introduced Kessler
at Blessed Sacrament and who is also considering a vocation to the
priesthood, will begin a Catholic Athletes for Christ project at
St. Thomas before Kessler leaves to study at the Pontifical North
American College in Rome this July.
Once in Rome, Kessler will act as a liaison for the group of athletes
and specifically its founder, Ray McKenna.
"Think about the impact that athletes have on the world,"
Kessler said. "Pray for the success of Catholic Athletes for
Kessler "is such a great witness" of Christ, said Susan
Gray, a parishioner at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax who attended
"He's a 'man's man' that's following the Lord."
- - - - - - -
This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission
of The Arlington Catholic Herald (www.catholicherald.com),
the official newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington, Va.
Would-be pro golfer on path to priesthood
It's easy to imagine a six-foot, tanned, 32-year-old Peter Hannah on the golf greens of Monterey, California, in textbook form, languidly driving balls 300 yards.
But instead of an Izod shirt and khaki pants, he's wearing the long, white habit of a medieval Dominican friar - and he's heading into winter in Alaska. He arrived in August from St. Albert's Priory in Oakland for a year's work at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska, as part of seminary training.
"My first reaction to being assigned to Anchorage was, 'Wow, that's a long ways away from California," Brother Peter Junipero Hannah told the Catholic Anchor.
But the would-be professional golfer, former college fraternity brother and convert to Catholicism already has traveled a long distance - through even the spiritual "desert" of the so-called "good life" - on the surprising path to freedom.
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO COLOGNE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XX WORLD YOUTH DAY
MEETING WITH SEMINARIANS
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Cologne - Saint Pantaleon
Friday, 19 August 2005
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
I greet all of you with great affection and gratitude for your
festive welcome and particularly for the fact that you have come
to this gathering from so many countries the world over. Here we
are truly a spectacular image of the Catholic Church in the world.
I thank especially the seminarian, the priest and the Bishop who
have given us their own personal witness. I must say that I was
moved to see these paths on which the Lord has guided these men
in an unexpected way and not according to their own projects.
I cordially thank you and am very pleased to have this meeting.
I had asked - and this has already been said - that the programme
of these days in Cologne should include a special meeting with young
seminarians, so that the vocational dimension would truly emerge
in all of its importance, since it plays an evermore important role
in the World Youth Days. It seems to be that the rain too that is
falling down from heaven is a blessing.
You are seminarians, that is to say, young people devoting an intense
period of your lives to seeking a personal relationship with Christ,
an encounter with him, in preparation for your important mission
in the Church. This is what a seminary is: more than a place, it
is a significant time in the life of a follower of Jesus.
I can imagine the echo that resounds in your hearts from the words
of the theme of this 20th World Youth Day - "We have come
to worship him" - and the entire moving narration of the
searching and finding of the Wise Men. Each in his own way - we
consider the three witnesses we have just heard - like them, they
see a star, set out on their journey, they too must face what is
unclear and are able to arrive at their destination under God's
This evangelical passage of the Wise Men who search out and find
Jesus has a special meaning precisely for you, dear seminarians,
because you are on an authentic journey, engaged in discerning -
and this is a true journey - and confirming your call to the priesthood.
Let us pause and reflect on this theme.
Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer
has to do with the mystery of the "star" which they saw
"in the East" and which they recognized as the star of
the "King of the Jews", that is to say, the sign of the
birth of the Messiah (cf. Mt 2: 2). So their journey was inspired
by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led
them towards the King of the Jews, towards the kingship of God himself.
This is the meaning behind our journey: to serve the kingship of
God in the world.
The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to
leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had
always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had
always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.
Dear friends, this is the mystery of God's call, the mystery of
vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly
evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to
follow him more closely.
The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment
of grace which could be defined as "falling in love".
His soul is filled with amazement, which makes him ask in prayer:
"Lord, why me?". But love knows no "why"; it
is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self.
The seminary years are devoted to formation and discernment. Formation,
as you well know, has different strands which converge in the unity
of the person: it includes human, spiritual and cultural dimensions.
Its deepest goal is to bring the student to an intimate knowledge
of the God who has revealed his face in Jesus Christ.
For this, in-depth study of Sacred Scripture is needed, and also
of the faith and life of the Church in which the Scripture dwells
as the Word of life. This must all be linked with the questions
prompted by our reason and with the broader context of modern life.
Such study can at times seem arduous, but it is an indispensable
part of our encounter with Christ and our vocation to proclaim him.
All this is aimed at shaping a steady and balanced personality,
one capable of receiving validly and fulfilling responsibly the
The role of formators is decisive: the quality of the presbyterate
in a particular Church depends greatly on that of the seminary,
and consequently on the quality of those responsible for formation.
Dear seminarians, for this very reason we pray today with genuine
gratitude for your superiors, professors and educators, who are
spiritually present at this meeting. Let us ask the Lord to help
them carry out as well as possible the important task entrusted
The seminary years are a time of journeying, of exploration, but
above all of discovering Christ. It is only when a young man has
had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand
the Lord's will and consequently his own vocation.
The better you know Jesus the more his mystery attracts you. The
more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him. This
is a movement of the Spirit which lasts throughout life, and which
makes the seminary a time of immense promise, a true "springtime".
When the Magi came to Bethlehem, "going into the house they
saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped
him" (Mt 2: 11). Here at last was the long-awaited moment:
their encounter with Jesus.
"Going into the house": this house in some sense represents
the Church. In order to find the Saviour, one has to enter the house,
which is the Church.
During his time in the seminary, a particularly important process
of maturation takes place in the consciousness of the young seminarian:
he no longer sees the Church "from the outside", but rather,
as it were, "from the inside", and he comes to sense that
she is his "home", inasmuch as she is the home of Christ,
where "Mary his mother" dwells.
It is Mary who shows him Jesus her Son; she introduces him and
in a sense enables him to see and touch Jesus, and to take him into
his arms. Mary teaches the seminarian to contemplate Jesus with
the eyes of the heart and to make Jesus his very life.
Each moment of seminary life can be an opportunity for loving experience
of the presence of Our Lady, who introduces everyone to an encounter
with Christ in the silence of meditation, prayer and fraternity.
Mary helps us to meet the Lord above all in the celebration of the
Eucharist, when, in the Word and in the consecrated Bread, he becomes
our daily spiritual nourishment.
"They fell down and worshiped him... and offered him gifts:
gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Mt 2: 11-12). Here is the culmination
of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into
an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary,
the Son of God made man.
How can we fail to see prefigured in this gesture of the Magi the
faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles, the faith of Paul
and of all the saints, particularly of the many saintly seminarians
and priests who have graced the 2,000 years of the Church's history?
The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience
to his will. St Ambrose said: "Christ is everything for us";
and St Benedict warned against putting anything before the love
May Christ be everything for you. Dear seminarians, be the first
to offer him what is most precious to you, as Pope John Paul II
suggested in his Message for this World Youth Day: the gold of your
freedom, the incense of your ardent prayer, the myrrh of your most
profound affection (cf. n. 4).
The seminary years are a time of preparing for mission. The Magi
"departed for their own country" and most certainly bore
witness to their encounter with the King of the Jews.
You too, after your long, necessary programme of seminary formation,
will be sent forth as ministers of Christ; indeed, each of you will
return as an alter Christus.
On their homeward journey, the Magi surely had to deal with dangers,
weariness, disorientation, doubts. The star was no longer there
to guide them! The light was now within them. Their task was to
guard and nourish it in the constant memory of Christ, of his Holy
Face, of his ineffable Love.
Dear seminarians! One day, God willing, by the consecration of
the Holy Spirit you too will begin your mission. Remember always
the words of Jesus: "Abide in my love" (Jn 15: 9). If
you abide close to Christ, with Christ and in Christ, you will bear
much fruit, just as he promised. You have not chosen him - we have
just heard this in the witnesses given -, he has chosen you (cf.
Jn 15: 16).
Here is the secret of your vocation and your mission! It is kept
in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who watches over each one of you
with a mother's love. Have recourse to Mary, often and with confidence.
I assure you of my affection and my daily prayers. And I bless
all of you from my heart.