IGNITE THE FAITH: Seminarian drawn to priesthood from early age
December 4, 2019
Ignite the Faith support facilitating his formation
By JOE FOREMAN
For the Catholic Voice
Zachary Eischeid first had thoughts of becoming a Catholic priest at a very young age – before he could comprehend the meaning of the Mass or the significance of the Holy Eucharist.
“As a toddler, I didn’t fully understand what was going on at Mass, but I knew it was something that was supernatural. It was so mysterious,” Eischeid said. “Just seeing the other worldliness, I was drawn into it.”
Eischeid, now in his first year of theology studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, was raised in a devout Catholic family on a farm outside Elgin. He attended St. Boniface School and Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School, both in Elgin.
His interest as a toddler deepened during his early grade-school years.
“Growing up, in the second and third grade – getting into server training, being able to go to confession and receive the Eucharist, I wanted to be able to do that sort of thing,” he said. “I wanted to bring Christ to others, forgive people for their sins – what the priests could do.”
As Eischeid grew older, his faith never wavered, but he began suppressing thoughts of becoming a priest in his early teen years. He took part in numerous Catholic youth activities – JC Camp, Quest, the March For Life – but he didn’t want to be labeled by his peers as “that super religious guy.”
“Subconsciously, I just kept pushing it (the priesthood) away,” Eischeid said.
Looking back, Eischeid said the priests who were a part of his life growing up were not only role models, but also influential in a way he didn’t fully appreciate as a teenager.
One who had a particularly strong influence on him was Father John Broheimer, now pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, who taught theology at Pope John XXIII.
“Every time he walked into the classroom, he just had this joy about him, like he was excited to teach,” Eischeid recalled. “He was so excited to bring the faith to us – just a beautiful witness.
“He had an answer for everything. All the questions I had and all the answers I didn’t have.”
Eischeid wasn’t ready to commit to a vocation when he graduated from high school, but he did enroll at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where he began pursuing a degree in theology.
It was near the end of his first year at Benedictine that Eischeid started giving serious thought to entering the seminary. While attending a priestly ordination, he was overcome with emotion – a sign his future should be placed in God’s hands.
He prayed and sought guidance from priests and family members as he contemplated his decision.
“The sacraments were huge because it’s easier to discern with a clean soul, a very directed soul,” he said. “Confession was beautiful. With it, I even had conversations about it with a few priests in the confessionals. Talking with parish priests and talking with my family was very helpful.”
Eischeid, 22, spent two years at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, before beginning his theology studies at Kenrick-Glennon. There, thanks to financial support from the Omaha archdiocese’s seminarian fund and the additional monies it has received through the Ignite the Faith campaign, his education is being funded.
Father Andrew Roza, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s director of vocations, said finances shouldn’t be an impediment to the priesthood for young men like Eischeid.
“We need to continue to support our seminarians,” Father Roza said. “We don’t know exactly what the demands of the future are going to be, whether it’s in terms of expenses or in terms of things that they’re going to need formatively to minister to future generations.”
Eischeid is grateful for the financial support.
“It’s been incredibly helpful,” he said. “Not having that burden, I’m able to focus more on just the discernment aspect. It’s kind of crazy to think in four or five years, I’ll be ordained.”
For more coverage on Ignite the faith, see our E-Edition here.