Experience of Those Called

[expand title=”Fr. Noah Diehm”]
Noah Diehm was a junior at Clarke College, thinking he would eventually marry and have a family like most in his age group. He was a resident assistant, working part time at The Village Inn restaurant and enjoying studying philosophy.

The thought of priesthood really wasn’t on his radar. Then his home parish, Church of the Resurrection in Dubuque, took part in the Called By Name program, where parishioners were invited to name and call forth those in their parish who might serve well as a priest or religious.

“Twelve to fifteen people had put my name down as a possible candidate for priesthood,” said Diehm in an interview with The Witness. “My feeling at the time was, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ I was rather dismissive as I had my own idea of what I thought I was called to.”

But once the seed was sown, the idea didn’t go away as it was nurtured by others. Father Nicholas March, then associate pastor of Resurrection, invited him to attend an Operation Andrew dinner.

“He gave me the ‘human face of priesthood’ which I wasn’t too familiar with at that point,” he said. Operation Andrew is a gathering of men each year to help them discern whether they have been called by God to the priesthood.”

Then at another discernment event called Thinking of Priesthood at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, — Father Jonathan Fassero, OSB, a monk of St. Meinrad Abbey and Seminary, talked about the beauty of marriage and the beauty of priesthood.

“There is this tension, but he put forth so realistically the beauty of priesthood that in the end it made it easy for me to think, ‘I can say yes to going to seminary and trying this out,’” said Diehm.

There were long discussions with his parents, Curt and Nancy Diehm of Dubuque; his younger sisters, Emily and Megan; and his spiritual director, Father William Joensen. After graduating from Clarke, Diehm spent a year in pre-theology at Loras College before going to St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Ind.

“I had mixed reactions from my peers,” said Diehm. “Some friends were very supportive and realized this was a sacrifice, while others asked, ‘Why in the world do you want to do something like that?’”

“When I entered seminary, God filled my heart with a deep and abiding joy that has continued with me ever since,” wrote Diehm in his bio on www.dbqpriesthood.com. “I know I made the right decision.”

Diehm, 27, will be ordained, along with Anthony Kruse, at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, at St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque. He will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving at the Church of Resurrection at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 26, followed by a reception in the school gym.

Diehm has a deep love for sacred Scripture, describing himself as a Scripture nerd already from his involvement in Bible studies at Clarke.

“I really was quite influenced by my dad,” he said. “He sat down and did the “Read the Bible in a Year” program and that got me started reading large chunks of the Bible.”

Because of his great love for Scripture, Diehm looks forward to preaching. “I appreciate the challenge of praying with the Scriptures and sitting with them and asking God, ‘What do you want people to hear?’ For me, this is an exciting part of ministry!”

He believes the role of a priest is first and foremost that of “Father” and sees spiritual fatherhood as central to his ministry. “I want to be a presence in the church and in the lives of the people, as a kind and loving face of God the Father,” he said, while acknowledging his own human limitations.

During seminary, Diehm discovered his gifts for ministry. “I get a lot of energy being around people and my comfort with being around people grew during seminary,” he said. During his Clinical Pastoral Education, he visited patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis. “I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to visit people in the hospital,” he said. “I realized maybe I have a gift for this — talking to people in the midst of very difficult situations and trying to bring the presence of Christ in those situations.”

Diehm also reflected on his meetings with men in prison at the Branchville Correctional Facility in Branchville, Ind. “What a great group of guys,” he recalled. “They have done something against the law but now are trying to reform their lives. There were a lot of faithful and committed Catholics who just wanted to live their faith while being in prison. I was really impressed!”

Summer assignments included St. Joseph Parish in Marion and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Dyersville.

“These gave me a better flavor for diocesan priesthood,” Diehm said. “I knew that I was just getting a taste and while I might not have the grace myself to do this, God would help me.”

Message to youth
What advice does Diehm give to young people who are unsure of their future? “Just be open,” Diehm suggests. “God has a beautiful plan in store for each of us. The biggest thing for me was just to be open.”

“The decision first was to discern about entering seminary,” he concluded. “This is not a decision yet to become a priest. Seminary life is a lot of fun. There are good days and bad days, but at the end of the day, I’ve been able to say it’s been worth it.”



[expand title=”Fr. Bob Gross”]

Ordained: May 26, 2007 I am the youngest of four children and I was born in Racine, Wisconsin. My dad, Jerry Gross, is a self-employed insurance agent and is semi-retired. My mom, Cathleen Gross is a retired Catholic school teacher. I attended St. Rita Parish and School in Racine from K-8 and then attended the local public high school. Then, following family tradition, I became the fifth member of my family to attend Loras College in Dubuque . I majored in history and minored in philosophy and Catholic studies.

I first received the call to priesthood when I was nine years old, after serving my first Mass. I remember going back to the sacristy and there was an Augustinian religious brother named, Bro. Patrick. When I was taking off my alb, he told me that I would make a good priest. From that moment on I always had the thought of priesthood in my mind.

Having the thoughts of priesthood in my mind did not mean I would act on it right away. When I attended college, I dated seriously thinking it would lead to marriage, but it didn’t happen. This experience forced me to look again at the nagging thought in my mind about priesthood. In my senior year, I said to the Lord,” Ok Lord. I’ll take a look at this.”

I was ordained by Archbishop Hanus on May 26, 2007. I attended Saint Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana for my seminary training. It was a very good place because it allowed me to truly look at the calling of the Spirit in my life, the purity of my intentions for entering the priesthood, the gifts that I had that needed to be nurtured, and the areas of weakness in my life that needed to be addressed. The best part of being in seminary was the brotherhood of living with men who were there for the same purpose. Another great feature of seminary was the opportunity to study and live my faith in an intentional community. The toughest part of seminary was the work of looking at myself and asking the Lord, spiritual directors, and peers to help me become more human and a better Christian.

I am presently in my first assignment as associate pastor of Holy Spirit Pastorate, the Dubuque city cluster of Sacred Heart, Holy Trinity, and Holy Ghost parishes. In July, 2009, I will be moving to my second assignment as associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier Basilica in Dyersville, and St. Paul Parish in Worthington .

Living out the promises of celibacy, simplicity of life, prayer, and obedience have their challenges. The greatest challenge is to remain a man of prayer which is the very life blood of the priesthood. Two of the most important tasks, prayer and preparation for preaching, are the two most difficult tasks to keep on the front burner of life. That is the constant struggle. Celibacy will always have its challenges but the benefits and graces are so abundant. The promise of obedience is the constant reminder that the work of ministry is never about just me. I am merely an instrument. For me, the struggle of obedience is to believe that despite my feelings about situations and assignments, the People of God will be taken care of by able priests before and after I come and go in their lives. Obedience gives the gift of freedom to know what I am to be about. I am to be about Christ and his glory.

The biggest surprise about priesthood flows from one of the graces of celibacy. I have been surprised by how quickly I came to love my people. I have been surprised by how much good and holiness I want for my people. When it happens, I am so happy for them and when hardship comes in their lives I am affected by their struggles. This is where I see the real truth of the priest acting in the person of Christ, the head. It is a tangible truth. It is a truth that is so beautiful. It is a truth of the heart that I never expected to be so meaningful.

I enjoy golfing, reading, going out to dinner with friends, and following Church news and secular news.




[expand title=”Fr. Don Hertges”]

Ordained: May 26, 2007 I am as the youngest of five children who grew up on a family owned and operated dairy farm in Winneshiek County , situated between the towns of Ossian and Decorah. Our family belonged to St. Francis De Sales Parish in Ossian where I attended Catholic School, grades 1-8. From 1990-1994, I attended South Winneshiek Senior High School. I had always felt a calling and attraction to the priesthood even as a young child but over the course of several years, I had to gradually become more comfortable with the idea of becoming a priest. My parents had a strong faith, led a simple life and tried to teach their children these same values. My parents instilled in me that attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation was the highest priority. Except in rare circumstances, my father did not do any unnecessary field or farm work on those days. Their strong faith influenced me so greatly that I took great care to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation while I attended Loras College from 1996-2000. I earned a Bachelors Degree in History at the Loras College and continued to help on our farm from 2000-2002. In this vocational interlude period, I felt called to be either a history teacher or an archivist. I started to pray more and more and became more receptive to God’s calling in my life.

In the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002, I still had not been successful in beginning a career in my chosen field of study but helping my brother on the farm and helping my widowed mother allowed me the precious gift of time for thinking, praying and discernment. While I had pursued many job leads, they all went nowhere. I started asking myself if what I wanted for my future life’s work was actually what God for me. I found myself, with the Holy Spirit’s help, reflecting even more deeply upon all of the times I had felt called to the priesthood, in addition to the occasions when other priests, friends and family members had reiterated what I had already been internally experiencing. From 1999-2001, on three distinct occasions, my hometown pastor, Msgr. Cletus Hawes, invited me into the priesthood. Several other priests also invited me to consider priesthood. These personal invitations were very meaningful to me and helped to bolster my confidence that God was indeed calling me to the vocation of the ministerial priesthood. In the spring of 2002, after a rich and prayerful Lenten Season, I finally made my way to Msgr. Hawes’ office and asked him to help me get in touch with the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. I began my seminary formation in the fall of 2002 at Loras College and lived in Vianney House, both located in the city of Dubuque.

I spent one year at Loras and earned a Minor in Philosophy. I began my seminary formation at the Vianney House with other young men who were beginning their discernment of the priesthood. I was then assigned to The Saint Paul Seminary, St. Paul , Minnesota . I spent the next four years delving into the teachings of the Church through the study of theology, in addition to the other three pillars of seminary formation manifested through human, spiritual and pastoral formation. I was ordained in May of 2007. The best aspects of seminary are the fellowship and camaraderie that exists among the seminarians who are sharing the joys and struggles of the formation process. I met and built relationships with many wonderful people such as seminary staff and people who were charged with my formation as well as parishioners and individuals I came in contact with at pastoral assignments during the summers and during the academic year in the seminary. I left the seminary with a deeper understanding of who I was as an individual, who God is, and how His ways are not always my ways. For me, the most difficult part of the seminary was learning that my time was not my own and that the formation process was quite rigorous with several demands placed upon my time. However, through the help of God’s grace assisted with large doses of caffeine, I discovered that everything always got done!!! So, there is more going on here than just human initiated effort.

My assignments to date: The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville, and St. Paul ‘s Parish, Worthington from 2007-2009 and St. Jude Parish Cedar Rapids effective July 14, 2009 until July 2011, at the discretion of the Archbishop.

Even after Ordination, formation and growth are ongoing as struggles and temptations do not magically disappear. Priests are not immune to becoming caught up in the accumulation of “stuff.” We must take great care that prayer life does not get swallowed up in the hectic busyness of our current culture and the demands of the parish (parishes) that we serve. Balancing prayer, leisure, friends and proper exercise with adequate rest is difficult for me. I try to walk as much as I can during the week but this does not always happen. I must never forget how I need to rely on God’s grace to help me grow in virtue that makes integration of my life easier. Without a deep and abiding life of prayer, our ministry and priestly lives become dry and self-focused. We need to remember that the people and parishes we serve are God’s and not ours. We need to keep this in mind in living the vow of obedience when we move to new assignments as priests!

The surprises that I have encountered in the priesthood are the deep love and respect that many people still have for priests and the great demand there is for priestly ministry. I am deeply touched and surprised at how difficult it is for those in our parish communities when we are reassigned and it is time for us to say goodbye and move to the next assignment.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, yard work, classic cars (I own and drive a 1974 Buick Century Lexus) tinkering with hand tools, small repair jobs, and anything to do with history and its preservation.



[expand title=”Fr. Anthony Kruse”]

Anthony Kruse went abroad for major seminary studies
By Steve McMahon | Witness Staff Writer

DUBUQUE — For a young man from rural Petersburg with an eye on the priesthood, a gentle nudge out of his comfort zone was all that was needed.

With his ordination approaching soon, the fourth-year theologian at the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City has gained a better understanding of the universal church, a more global perspective on life, and added maturity.

Anthony “Tony” Kruse will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m., at St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque, along with Noah Diehm of St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Ind.

On the following day, Kruse will celebrate his first Mass at his home parish — SS. Peter and Paul in Petersburg — at 12 noon. As expected, he’s feeling a range of emotions about what lies ahead. Excitement, joy and hope, with a twinge of anxiety.

“I’ve been preparing for this day for six years,” Kruse said. “And now this is it. It’s time. I’m where God wants me to be, a parish priest.

“But it’s not about Noah or me,” he added. “We’re celebrating two men answering the call. It’s about the Lord. We’re being ordained to serve the Lord.”

Kruse, 33, graduated from Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville in 1997. The son of Angela and the late Pat Kruse, he grew up on a dairy farm one mile north of Petersburg with three brothers and a sister. His father died 16 years ago. His step-father, the late Ralph Oberbroeckling, who died April 29, 2011, had eight children of his own.

Kruse graduated from Loras College in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He then served as campaign manager for a friend, Steve Lukan, who successfully ran for the Iowa House of Representatives.

When the legislature convened in January 2003, Kruse was hired to serve as Lukan’s clerk in Des Moines. While working in that position for three years, he felt an ongoing tug in a different direction.

“After consulting with my pastor and a few other priests and after much praying, I believed that this pull was leading me to the priesthood,” he related.Awakening, rebirth
Upon returning to Loras in 2005, this time as a student at St. Pius X Seminary, Kruse attended a retreat at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. He really liked the Mundelein campus and its close proximity to home, making it his top choice for major seminary.

Archdiocesan officials, however, encouraged him to consider the Pontifical North American College, citing a greater potential for personal growth by forging new relationships in a different culture and language far from home.

Kruse was apprehensive about going to Rome and struggled to adjust his first year there (2007-08).

“It was hard,” he said. “I was miserable the first year.”

Looking back today, he knows getting out of his comfort zone, challenging himself, was what he needed most.

“I had always lived in Iowa, so I preferred nearby Mundelein,” he said. “But I had to get away from home, purged of everything I knew, in order to grow. Knowing no one, my prayer life and devotion to the Eucharist developed.”

Kruse cites a biblical passage that applies to his situation:

“Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast . . . but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

“I got rid of the old yeast and replaced it with new,” Kruse said. “I was so attached to home; I had to get away.”

Studying in Rome has also given Kruse a sense of hope and optimism for the Catholic Church in general.

“I see people from all over the world come on pilgrimages to Rome and to St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s Sunday addresses,” he said. “I see so many young people there. They’re energized. The faith is alive in their hearts.”

Role models, mentors
How did his faith develop and grow early in his life?
“My parents were great witnesses to the faith,” Kruse said of his formative years. “The Catholic faith was very important to them. My father milked the cows before Sunday Mass. If the milk pumps malfunctioned on Sunday morning, he was delayed. Instead of skipping Mass, he would shut the pumps off, go to Mass, then come back to finish his work. That meant something to me. It told me that faith is very important.”

Among the clergy who have mentored Kruse along the way are: the late Msgr. Albert Manternach, Petersburg pastor, 1986-89; Father John O’Connor, current Petersburg pastor; Father Phillip Kruse, an uncle and Bellevue area pastor; Father Scott Bullock, archdiocesan director of seminarians; and Msgr. Joseph Hanefeldt of the Omaha, Neb., Archdiocese, director of spiritual formation at the North American College.

“Msgr. Manternach was a tremendous influence on me,” Kruse said. “He was the model priest. He had a Christ-centered heart. He was prayerful and joyful. He loved Christ, the church, the people and the priesthood. When I spoke to him on his deathbed, I told him, ‘If I can become half the priest you are, everything will be fine.’”

Message to youth
Having faced his own fears, Kruse is now in a position to challenge other young people to step up and do the same.

“Young men and women discerning a vocation to religious life should not be afraid,” he said. “They should give seminary or religious life a try if they think God is calling them. They should trust that the Lord will lead and guide them to where he wants them to be.”