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A message from the bishop

Hearing God's call in everyday moments 
(July/August 2016)
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Each of the four newly ordained priests for the Diocese of Grand Rapids shared his influences and how he discerned his call from God, along with his hopes for the future (read their stories starting on page 14). We spent time with Bishop Walkowiak and asked him the same questions. The story of his calling to the priesthood is below.
 
My dear friends,

I believe my call to the priesthood came from the Lord Jesus, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain ...” (Jn 15:16) But God communicates to us through the ordinary experiences of life. Catholicism and Church life were really important in my family. Our faith was so much a part of our home that it was as normal as taking a breath. We went to church, my sisters and I, with my parents. We never missed Mass while on vacation and we never complained about attending. We attended Catholic schools. We knew we were expected to say prayers, and did so. A growing habit of prayer and of desiring to receive holy Communion made me open to the idea of being a priest.
 
But that wasn’t all. There were priests in my life who, not surprisingly, also exerted a powerful influence in making the priesthood attractive to me. My great uncle, Msgr. Edmund Mondzelewski, was the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Garfield Heights, Ohio. He was the happiest and nicest man I ever met! He had a great sense of humor, a big laugh. His family and parishioners loved him and looked up to him. He was quite an influence! Also, I had a cousin, Father Dominic Mondzelewski, who became a Benedictine monk. He, too, was somebody to look up to and admire, wonderfully friendly and kind. So right there in my family were two great priests.
 
In addition, the pastor at my home parish, St. Bernadette in Westlake, Ohio, Father Joseph Dempsey, was a good man who encouraged me to think about becoming a priest. His suggestion made an impression on me during my grade-school years. The priest who ultimately helped me to realize that I needed to take my vocational leanings seriously was Father Thomas McNally, CSC, the vocations director at the University
of Notre Dame. He was a great mentor, friend and guide throughout my undergraduate years, and
helped me to discern that I should apply to the diocesan seminary after graduating from Notre Dame.
 
Each call to a vocation is unique; but perhaps a common experience is that several factors, circumstances
and events come together to sharpen the calling of a priestly vocation. When that finally occurred in my own life, I recognized it, ultimately accepted it and experienced a great calm and inner peace afterward.
 
The moment that stands out from my ordination Mass was not spiritual in nature. I remember how oppressively hot it was in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland. The air-conditioning
broke down the day before and I believe it was in the mid-80s inside. Halfway through the Mass, my
classmates and I were given towels for us to wipe our faces and heads. Seventeen men were ordained to the priesthood that day in 1979.
 
After three years of being a bishop, I can agree that a vocation is not a static reality; it continues to
change and grow. Never did I imagine that my priestly vocation would evolve into becoming a bishop. I’m
still learning – a lot! I believe the Holy Spirit continues to shine light upon new areas of my apostolic
ministry. For me, the key is to recognize these promptings and try my best to be responsive to them.
 
So far, those promptings have led me to promote and strengthen our Catholic schools; to welcome and
support our Hispanic community and its ministries; and to resume the permanent diaconate program.
Of course, other areas of ministry need to be addressed, such as training for lay ecclesial ministers, and, as Pope Francis reminds us, doing works of charity to serve the neediest in our midst. It goes without
saying that the Church must find effective ways to announce the Good News and the “New  Evangelization,” and remain dedicated to this mission. It’s a tall order, but the Holy Spirit never comes to us empty-handed. That’s why I enjoy what I do and have confidence for the future. God’s in charge! 
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak