My name is Jeffrey Frieden, and I am a college freshman at St. Pius X Seminary in Dubuque. I was born on February 4, 1997 in Ames, Iowa to Jeff and Jenny Frieden. I have one younger sibling, my brother Jack. I was baptized in St. Cecilia’s in Ames, but I have been a parishioner at St. Pius X in Cedar Rapids since I was three years old. I graduated from Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids in 2015.
Q & A
Where and when did your sense of call develop?
The sense of call first developed when I was in grade school. I played mass a couple of times when I was a kid. Eventually, I started altar serving and reading books about faith and religion that my mom would bring home for me. It was always there as I grew up, but I would try to put it on the back burner sometimes. I first talked to Fr. Schatz about it at a Catholic Men’s Conference my sophomore year in high school, but he told me to wait until I was a senior. I contacted him again when I was a senior and here I am.
What do you feel the role of the priest is?
I believe that, in the words of Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, the purpose of a priest is to “…Go daily from men to God to offer Him their prayers and petitions, [and] to return from God to Men to bring them His pardon and hope…” I can’t think of a better description of the sacraments and the role of a priest. When a priest makes his promise to live a life of prayer, who does he pray for? He prays for the people. What does a priest do in his preaching and in celebrating the sacraments? He brings the Gospel message of hope, forgiveness, and love to the people.
What advice would you give to a man considering the priesthood/seminary?
My advice is for high school students who believe that they are called to the priesthood, or at least to the seminary, is to serve God’s people where they are. First, serve your parish. Be trained for every liturgical ministry that you can, if not because you want to serve your parish then because you will have to serve in all of them while you’re in the seminary. If you are asked to help with RE or serve as a youth representative on a council, do what you can but don’t overextend yourself. Second, serve the poor in your community. And don’t just organize food drives, either. Go out and serve them face to face. Try to get to know the poor and see them as Children of God. If you can, try to serve regularly at one place so that you can develop a connection with the people you serve. No matter what you do, the most important thing is it remember that you are a servant. Do not expect to be given a leadership role or a special, privileged status just because you are considering seminary. Help however you are asked to and do not complain. Since trying to navigate the discernment process can be a little tricky, I’ve included a year-by-year guide to the process:
- Freshman year– This is probably a little bit early to start formally discerning, but you should still serve your community and pray about your calling. If you feel really strongly about your calling, ask your parish priest about it and do as he says. Receive the sacraments regularly (including, if at all possible, monthly confession). Participate in your parish as is possible.
- Sophomore year– The earliest that you could introduce yourself to the Fr. Schatz, the Vocation Director, is the spring of your sophomore year. Even if you do contact him, nothing will happen until your junior year at the earliest; this just makes sure that he’s aware of you for next year. Continue to serve, pray, receive the sacraments, and participate in your parish.
- Junior year– This is the earliest that you will be invited to any discernment events, and even then you will probably only be invited to a couple. Visit Loras College and continue to serve, pray, receive the sacraments, and participate in your parish.
- Senior year– This is where things get busy, so I’m going to break it into parts:
- Fall of your senior year– Apply to Loras College, listing philosophy as your only major. If there is a place for notes, mention that you intend to apply for seminary. If you have the opportunity to attend a day-long discernment retreat, do so.
- Winter of your senior year– There might be another discernment retreat. If you can, go again. Attend the visit weekend at the seminary. Contact Fr. Schatz and begin the application process once you can begin working on it (don’t try to start applying in January if you’re a basketball player, for example). The process can take anywhere from three to five months depending on how quickly you get things in, so it’s better to start earlier rather than later. That being said, if Father asks you to wait, you should wait.
- Spring of your senior year– The target date for having your application done is usually somewhere between June 1st and June 15th, so plan accordingly. Email Fr. Zinkula, the rector at St. Pius X Seminary (the one that’s a part of Loras) before you register for classes and ask what you need to take. Most of the seminary required classes only have one section, so you’ll need to sign up for those first.
- Summer of your senior year– If you haven’t already, finish the application process. Try to work about 40/hrs a week over the summer, if you can, but leave Friday afternoons open so that you can attend Summer Formation.
God bless anyone discerning the priesthood!
How did your friends and family react when you told them that you were considering the priesthood?
My friends and family were all very supportive. There haven’t been any negative experiences with friends or family, although there have been some humorous misunderstandings. I’d especially like to thank my parents and family for all of their support, as well as the entire Xavier and St. Pius X communities.
Were you hesitant or nervous to take the first steps to enter the formation process?
I was not hesitant to take those first steps. If anything, I was a little too eager. I wanted to join seminary long before I was ready to join seminary. That being said, I got cold feet when the rubber hit the road, but I’m glad that I’m here.