Parents, families have big impact on vocations to priesthood
June 21, 2021
Father Patrick Moser grew up on a family farm near Clearwater, where the Catholic faith was just as much a part of the rhythm of life as daily chores.
He remembers his parents, Sandy and Ed, leading the family of seven in prayer, including petitions from their parish’s prayer line, at every meal.
“When they pray, they really believe God is real and active in our lives … a God who loves us,” he said. “Even if I didn’t think about it consciously, that was my default position too.
“Mom would read us Bible stories or stories of faith and encouraged us to read our Bible, he said. “I always saw mom do that every morning.”
Father Moser, who was ordained for the archdiocese in 2018, said his parents’ lived faith, which they imparted to their children, had the biggest impact on his priestly vocation. Fathers Zach Tucker and Mauricio Tovar, both ordained in 2020, had similar experiences in their families.
Father Andrew Roza, vocations director for the archdiocese and associate pastor of the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, said parents are pivotal in the lives of all their children.
“When parents are living their faith, it’s good for the whole Church,” he said. “What they do really matters. I know how much I value both my parents.”
While each priest’s family is unique with its own history, “you can’t go wrong in a family that knows God,” he added.
For the Mosers, parishioners at St. Theresa of Avila in Clearwater, knowing God comes from spending time with him, which includes reading Scripture. Sandy said she tries to read the Scripture readings for the day before breakfast each day.
“I probably didn’t spend a lot of time doing it, but even five minutes helped – and sometimes that’s all I had. I just tried to be faithful,” she said.
Father Moser, who is now assistant pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, saw this as a child and while living at home as he started his career working for another farmer after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He believed his education in agronomy and being the oldest son would lead to someday taking over the family farm.
“The daily witness of my parents … helped me to continue to build trust in the Lord (while discerning),” he said.
Father Tovar, who is assistant pastor at Assumption-Guadalupe, Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Mary parishes, all in Omaha, was also influenced by his family’s faith.
As a boy in Mexico, he saw his parents’ active participation in the Mass, church ministries and sacraments. He witnessed his parents pray for him and others.
“I was moved by the faith of the people,” he said. “Around 14 or 15, I visited the Blessed Sacrament more often. I wanted to know more about the vocation of serving God’s people.”
In 2002 at nearly 18, he came to the United States with his grandparents and uncle, settling in Rogers, Nebraska. They continued the same faith practices at Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler. “I also prayed the Rosary every night with my grandmother,” he said.
The transition to a new country, new language and new school – he had to register as a freshman at the local high school – was challenging.
“(My parents) told me they were praying for me all the time. I felt their support,” he said. “It meant the world to me.”
After finishing high school at age 21, Father Tovar said, he planned to work in the local meatpacking industry to save some money and maybe return to Mexico.
That changed when he got involved in the parish’s charismatic movement with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and the recently ordained Deacon Pablo Tovar.
The movement helped him deepen his relationship with God and pray more for others, which in turn led him to question the direction of his life.
FREEDOM TO CHOOSE
Father Zach Tucker, who is assistant pastor at St. James Parish in Omaha, said he also learned to pray and live out his Catholic faith from his parents’ example.
His parents, Patrick and Sue, tried to instill in each of their six sons the belief that God gives everyone unique talents and then a calling to use them, his father said.
“Our role was … to give them the opportunity to find their way in the world to what they are being called to do … without pressuring or directing them,” he said.
The couple, who are members of Christ the King Parish in Omaha, used a balanced approach that included praying together, inculcating a love of learning and cultivating a sense of wonder when searching for the answer to a problem.
“(We) were trying to raise godly men who were thoughtful, caring, disciplined,” the elder Tucker said, “but also not afraid of a challenge.”
Like Fathers Moser and Tovar, Father Tucker thought he was headed for another life. He was pursuing law school after earning an undergraduate degree in criminology from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, when he attended a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) event at the school in 2012.
He left the event with the desire to serve. When FOCUS offered a two-year mission commitment at Arizona State University, he saw it as an opportunity to learn what God wanted for his life.
OPEN TO GOD’S PLAN
All three priests said they hesitated telling others they were considering the priesthood. They questioned their abilities, the authenticity of their call and how it might impact their parents’ perceived expectations.
When the conversation finally came up at the Tuckers, Zach was home on a summer break from FOCUS. Tucker recalls his son saying that he didn’t know how to talk about it.
“We were very supportive. We didn’t presume he would be ordained … that’s a lot of pressure. We just supported him and his journey,” said his father.
Father Tucker said now he recognizes his parents “didn’t want any of us to feel we had to do something to make them happy. Choosing something that made us happy would make them happy.”
The Mosers’ conversation began around a discussion about purchasing more farmland.
“I was working for another farmer, fixing a lot of fences … and I realized I hadn’t asked the question: What did God want me to do with my life?” said Father Moser.
He has a distinct memory of an inner voice asking, “Have you thought about being a priest?”
At first, he fought against it because the idea scared him. “I didn’t think I could do it,” he said.
Sandy remembers her son telling them not to buy the land for him because he was considering the priesthood. Though a bit surprised, she said they were not shocked.
“When you raise (children) with faith, you are raising them to listen to God’s voice and to follow him,” she said.
While their families’ support helped all three priests discern a vocation, it was the example of their elders’ trust in God for their children’s calls that gave them the courage to pursue them.
Father Tovar said his uncle Pablo has been much like a father to him since immigrating from Mexico. He recalled when he first asked him if he thought he could be a priest one day. His uncle replied, “If it’s God’s will, God will provide.”
“When parents live their faith, children witness their parents trusting God,” Father Roza said. “Because they see that example, they know God will take care of them in whatever he asks.”