My name is Tom Heathershaw and I am a 2nd Theologian at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, IL. I was born in Waterloo, IA on April 10, 1989 to Donna Heathershaw and Bill Koch. I attended grade school at St. Edward and graduated from Columbus High School in 2007. I attended the University of Iowa for three years, then transferred and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in May of 2013 with a degree in Religion. The call to priesthood has been with me for a long time and I could only go so long without answering the call and trying out seminary.
Where and when did your sense of call develop?
I would say the seed was first planted when I heard Father Jerry Kopacek give a homily about vocations when I was in 5th grade. I never gave it much serious thought at first, but it led me to ask questions about the priesthood and as I learned more about it and discernment it became more of a serious idea. As I entered high school the calling started to grow and I knew God was calling me to enter seminary.
Is there a model priest for you in your life?
I have been blessed to know many priests throughout my life. Several priests come to mind, but the one that sticks out the most is Father Jerry Kopacek. He was the one that really first invited me to think about the priesthood and he was there for me at a young age to help me grow in my call. He would always be available to me if I ever had any questions or needed to talk to him. He is also a man that reminds me of Jesus in the way he lives as a priest. He is a priest I want to model if I am ordained.
What advice would you give to a man considering the priesthood/seminary?
I would say do not be afraid to explore the call and find out more about it. There are priests who are willing to talk to you if you approach them about priesthood or formation that is involved. If you feel you are called, contact Fr. Schatz and let him know where you stand in discernment. You will not be forced to do anything, but just to get a good idea where you are. Continue to pray and try to go to mass as often as you can. You will get clarity on your vocation when you encounter God at mass or in your prayer life.
How did your friends and family react when you told them that you were considering the priesthood?
My family and friends have been very supporting. This came as no surprised since they knew for a long time I have been discerning to enter seminary. The time felt right after I graduated from college to finally enter and they have given me nothing but support. The prayers and encouragement I have gotten has helped me make the transition to life in seminary.
What do you feel the role of the priest is?
I feel the priest should be a person that reminds people of Jesus and lives a life that models our Lord. We see this now with our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. He lives a simple life and reminds us of what Jesus tells us in the Gospels. A priest should be a bridge for people to find Jesus Christ. He is a person who brings the sacraments to people and brings Jesus to their lives. The priest reminds people of how Christ calls us to live, and to be more like him.