by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you received your vocation to be a priest, with whom did you discuss it, and what was their advice?
Tyler: I can split up my vocation into two parts. The first part was my desire to explore if God really was calling me to this vocation. This happened, or started, when I was at the University of Iowa. I got involved at the Catholic Student Center, first in the music ministry and then in Bible Studies and prayer groups. I started going to daily Mass with a community there, and I started to think that maybe I could do this, I liked it and felt fulfilled by ministry, so I started talking to the priest at the student center. He didn’t push me, but gave me tools to start actually discerning, listening to God’s call, prayers and things to listen for. I joined seminary that year, eager to start figuring it all out. I think the best advice I got from him and the other priests I talked to was to start praying. I really do think a call to the priesthood for me came from knowing Jesus personally. And the more I prayed the more I came to know him, and came to love him, and wanted to serve him and his Church. The second piece of advice I got is you can’t wait forever. A lot of guys I think might feel this call at some point but put it off for some reason or other, maybe even very good reasons. But at some point if you don’t jump, you’re never going to know. It’s worth it to see where God may be leading you.
Gordon: Where did you do your canoeing and kayaking?
Tyler: Close to my home is Wapsi River, where my family and I have canoed and kayaked in the summer, but probably my favorite trip was down the apple river in Wisconsin or the Upper Iowa in North East Iowa. The water is clear in Wisconsin, but the bluffs around the Upper Iowa are beautiful to float down in the summer.
Gordon: What has been your favorite course at Mundelein and why?
Tyler: My favorite course at Mundelein has been Ecclesiology, the study of the Church. It really opened my eyes to our latent prejudices and beliefs about what it means to be a Church that we often don’t realize. We live and breathe in a world that understands “church” in a particular way, a way that wasn’t popular sixty years ago, and it can be easy to forget. The words we use, the images we use, teach something about our relationship to each other and to God, even if we don’t realize it. The People of God, The Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God. It was a class that for someone planning to be a pastor someday, made me really think about how I view the parish, and how the parishioners I will serve view their parishes, and how we can work together to advance the mission. How we understand ourselves and our communal life is more important than we often realize. Everyone has an ecclesiology, some are helpful to the mission, others not so much, but we can all grow from understanding and the diversity.
Gordon: When and where will you be ordained as a priest and where will you be assigned?
Tyler: I’ll be ordained for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the northeast portion of Iowa, the Cathedral of St Raphael in Dubuque, with four of my classmates, on May 25th, 2019. I know that I’ll be filling in for a pastor for the summer in Northeast Iowa (which I volunteered for), but beyond that I don’t have any idea where I’ll be assigned. In Dubuque we have an old tradition, which is still common in some dioceses that a seminarian isn’t told where his first assignment is until after his ordination. Literally, the Archbishop hands us a letter immediately after ordination telling us where we are being sent. And with five guys ordained this year I can’t figure it out!
Gordon: Please share with our readers you interest in building computers and will this still to be a hobby as a priest?
Tyler: I built my first computer before my first year of college. I had some friends who had done it before (they are all engineers) and I was into video games, and it looked like fun. It was neat to explore the structure of a computer, learn about its parts and what they do. But what was especially cool was to see it spring to life (after a few failed attempts). I’ve built a couple more since then, but I actually can’t see it being a hobby in the future. It was fun but unless you’re playing video games it’s a waste to build a computer, and the further on in seminary I’ve gotten the less time and desire I’ve had to play video games. There are cheaper, more practical hobbies for the priesthood!
Gordon: What, in your opinion, are the three primary communications challenges facing the Church today?
Tyler: Well I don’t have a thought out opinion, but I suppose if I could boil it down in my experience the Church’s communication challenges come down to Competition, Division, and Relevance. The Church is more now than ever competing with voices that all claim authority and guidance in people’s lives, so all of us are able to choose a variety of identities to define ourselves. It’s ultimately not a bad thing or even a new thing, but more than ever we should recognize that simply because we are the Church, for many that doesn’t mean that we have any special authority in people’s minds. Not to mention the noise of all the voices, it’s hard to be heard in the modern market. But part of what hurts us is our own division. There are different kinds of Catholics all with our own projects or concerns, and our own voices from within the Church prevent outsiders from understanding or being drawn to the Church. Finally, our message needs relevance. This doesn’t mean that we should suddenly invent a new message to reach people, but as Pope Francis has been reminding us, it means preaching the Kerygma, the Good News, and the Gospel, as our message, the first message that people should hear and think when they interact with the Catholic Church. I hope we as a Church can learn to speak with the voice of Christ, as one Church, to bring the good news to the world.
Gordon: What is your favorite Bible passage and why?
Tyler: My favorite passage of the Bible is the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew, particularly chapter 6 on worrying. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” I have always found comfort in this passage, and I’ve come back to it often. There’s nothing really more than that. Sometimes our favorite passages really just remind us of something simple, that God loves us and is always there.
Gordon: What can parishes do to interest more people in reading the Bible?
Tyler: I think the number one thing that can be done to get more people interested in is provide opportunity to read and understand the scriptures. I believe that people really do want to know and pray with the Bible but it’s intimidating. It’s a huge collection of books written in another time and place, where do you start, how do we read the Bible as Catholics, and what are we looking for? As a future Parish priest one of my roles is to teach, and I don’t think there is anything as important as teaching people how they can make the Bible a part of their prayer life and how that can enhance all their experiences in the Church. Parishes can and should offer Bible studies that empower people to read the Bible by learning how. But the other thing I think that parishes can do is open up to people how the Bible really informs so much of what we do, believe, and say as Catholics. That starts with preaching, opening up the word at Sunday Mass, connecting the scripture to their lives and showing them how their faith isn’t just alongside the scriptures, but dependent upon them. Being familiar with scripture, reading from it daily, and knowing what it means is not an option for us anymore, but a necessity, and one that will be fruitful for all Catholics.
Gordon : Thank you for a great interview.