“In the Catholic Church, if there’s more than one priest, there’s one who’s the head, the pastor, and his assistants are either newer guys on their way up or older guys close to retirement. For me, I was a brand-new priest three years ago, so I had to get an experience of being a priest in a different kind of church and location. They keep us rotating. I had a three-year assignment and I think I’ve learned a lot here.
“I’ll be moving to Dillon. There’s a lot more tourists in the congregation, so I won’t be seeing the same people every Sunday.
“I did a year of mission work doing work with a youth ministry group, going from parish to parish doing one or two night events, jump-starting and aiding existing youth groups, doing some high-energy presentations of the gospel. I did that for a year before I entered the seminary. I lived out of a suitcase in a van with other people as kind of a transient, itinerant preacher.
“I also spent a few summers down in Mexico learning Spanish so I could do ministry in Spanish. I say Spanish Mass every weekend in at least one of the parishes, and I do some of the sacraments and teaching in Spanish, too. One of the best trips I ever had was in Europe when I went to World Youth Day in 2005 to see the Pope. I had already built in some time beforehand in Germany to research some of my ancestors and then I went to the Czech Republic, where the other side of my family was from, and I researched some family stuff there. That proved extremely difficult because I didn’t speak any Czech and my friend, who spoke some German, and I were just wandering around the Czech Republic without an ounce of Czech and it was kind of a challenge.
“In Craig and a lot of the United States, the Catholic Church might have just as much following as anywhere else. In the world, it’s the largest religion and by far the largest denomination of Christianity. In Europe, everywhere you go, there’s a church that’s hundreds of years old. This parish was founded in 1925, so we’re really young. Worldwide, it’s just more culturally ingrained. Like with Hispanics, they’re not necessarily more faithful, but they’re more culturally Catholic.
“My experience in Craig has been good, it’s been challenging. Even the parts I’d consider negative were all very formational in learning. The severity of the winter was a huge thing to deal with. My first year, we had a week where it was under zero the whole week, and I’d never seen that, and it seemed like we were always shoveling. After I’d been here a whole year, it snowed on June 15, and we were loading up a bus in the snow.
“Craig certainly has its own unique flair. Being away from the city, I like being able to get involved with sportsman-type things. I never did hunting, but I was not a person who fished much, and now I do a lot. I also spent a lot of my days off skiing in Steamboat, and during the summers I did a lot of camping in the region.
“I grew up in Denver, driving in city traffic every single day, and now when I go back, I’m like, ‘Traffic!’ I’ve learned a slower pace of life. I was always early for everything when I first moved here because it took two minutes to get everywhere instead of about 15, so I’d be 13 minutes early. Now whenever I go to Denver, I’m late for everything.
“I think in any parish, there’s a core group of people who make it run, who are volunteers and are always there. I think I’ve formed good friendships with the core families.
“One of the things I’ve focused on most is youth ministry. We’ve had some successful mission trips to different states to work with the poor who are here in the United States, just because it’s a lot cheaper and safer than going abroad. I’ve always kind of struggled with spending tons of money to go help someone. My thought is ‘How much more good can we do, why don’t we just donate that much money?’ While the experience can’t be replaced, it’s hard to spend that much money, and that’s why missions within the United States is a focus I’ve had.
“As a priest, I make a vow of obedience to the Bishop of Denver, who’s in charge of 114 parishes. He has to work out the personnel and needs of each town. Most likely, I won’t leave northern Colorado. When I get further along in my career, I’ll be able to give more feedback on where I go, but most of it is based on where a board of people believe you’ll work best. Part of me likes that because if you choose where you’re going to live, you have to own that choice. If you go where you’re sent, it doesn’t matter where it is because it’s like, ‘God wants me here.’”
—Interview by Andy Bockelman