St. Mary of the LakeUniversity
by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation.
Deacon Andy: I grew up in a Roman Catholic home and attended Catholic grammar school until I graduated 8th grade in 2009. My family would attend Mass every Sunday and I began altar serving for the parish in 5th grade. My parents were involved in the life of the parish, from volunteering at the food pantry to coaching school sports. My grandparents also taught the faith to me, through word and action.
Dr. Knight: Please tell us the significance of your high school years in formation.
Deacon Andy: I attended Palatine High School, which has a student population of roughly 2,400 students. While I was in high school, I participated in the Quigley Scholar’s Program of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The program was created, after Quigley Preparatory Seminary closed in 2008, for high school men who are discerning the call to priesthood. The program met once a month, on a Wednesday evening, at St. Joseph College Seminary at Loyola University Chicago for Evening Prayer, Mass, dinner, and a hour of faith sharing on a given topic. I was the first suburban public-school attendee. Being a part of this program was very beneficial in two ways. The first was that I was able to meet and talk with other high school-aged men who were also discerning the vocation to priesthood. I knew I was not alone. Secondly, having dinner with the college seminarians, and having some of them as our group leaders, allowed me to see the life of a seminarian and actually see myself being like them. The Quigley Scholars Program really helped me to move to the next step of discernment, attending college seminary.
Dr. Knight: You went to college and joined the seminary. How did you make that decision?
Deacon Andy: As I said, being a member of the Quigley Scholars Program all four years of high school really helped solidify my decision to enter the seminary. I applied to other universities too, but I felt joining St. Joseph College Seminary was the right decision for me at the time. I was also supported by many people, family, friends, high school teachers, priests, and the seminarians who I came to know through the program. One seminarian, who is now a priest, was very influential in this process. He was assigned to my home parish, St. Thomas of Villanova in Palatine for the summer of 2008. I was able to get to know him and ask him many questions, and he helped encourage me to continue discerning this call in my heart.
Dr. Knight: You are named after St. Andrew. Are you like St. Andrew?
Deacon Andy: St. Andrew, as tradition tells us, was the first called. In the Gospels, he is always leading people to Jesus. He lead his brother Peter to Jesus (cf John 1:40-42); he pointed out the boy with the five loaves and two fish that would eventually feed the 5000 (cf. John 6:8-10); and after the Greeks asked to see Jesus, Andrew led them to him (cf. John 12:20-23). Andrew always points the way to Christ, always leads others to Christ. I am not perfect at it, but I strive to be like Andrew, encountering the Lord and leading others to encounter Him as well.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that your life is somewhat a mosaic of your different gifts?
Deacon Andy: Mosaics play a vital role in our lives of faith, for in the early Church, mosaics were used to teach the faith. From far away, mosaics look perfect, colors blending together as if in a painting, but as one draws closer, they see the different shades of the same color, the different shapes and sizes. And, every mosaic, no matter how perfectly created, there is always one piece out of place, to show the imperfection of the artist. As I have grown, and especially in seminary formation, I have become more and more aware of my gifts, and my limitations. Like everyone else, I do have different gifts, and am more comfortable using some gifts more than others. Some gifts naturally manifest itself, others I try to use when needed. I am a person of faith, but I am also a sinner whose imperfections can be seen. I try to use the programs in formation, whether it has been volunteering at a food pantry, visiting the sick, being a hospital chaplain, teaching religious education, or now, being a deacon of the Church, to continue to proclaim the Good News of Salvation and allow others to see Christ in me.
Dr. Knight: What do you want the readers to understand after reading this interview?
Deacon Andy: Each of us have our own unique story of encountering the Lord. Some people encounter him early in life, some people encounter him later in life. What matters is what we do after that encounter. Do we move on in life as if nothing happened, or do we, like Andrew and the Apostles, totally leave our former lives behind and embrace this new life, whose horizon is focused on friendship with Christ in heaven for eternity?
Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of the future Church?
Deacon Andy: In this time of Covid-19, I think one of the challenges for the future Church is to re-inspire them to come back to Mass. Being away for so long, being allowed to watch Mass on tv out of safety and precaution, people will not return to the pews as quickly as before the pandemic. The Church must recommit herself in her preaching and beliefs, of the foundational and crucial role the Sacramental life plays in the hearts of her faithful. We must inspire our members to come back to church, to receive the Sacraments, to encounter the Lord again in the Sacraments, and to grow in grace, love, and holiness form this sacramental encounter
Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as a follower of Christ?
Deacon Andy: There have been so many joys it hard to focus on a few. Many people think the life of a priest, and those desiring to be a priest, is a sad and lonely life. But it is the opposite. By following Christ in this particular way, I have been able to see the hand of the Lord at work in so many ways. Life in Christ is a journey, once you decide to follow Christ in any way, does not make your life perfect and free from stumbling. I have encountered the joy of mercy and forgiveness in the confessional, I have felt the joy and happiness of witnessing people accept Christ in their life, I have felt the presence of heaven at Mass, I have walked with many people (particularly as a hospital chaplain) in the shadow of death and their faith in Christ’s presence only strengthened my faith. My life of discipleship can be summed up in St. Peter’s first letter, “Although you have not seen him, you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9). I have seen the Lord in the people I have come in contact with, journey with, and who have helped me on this journey. I have seen the Lord in the Sacraments I receive. I have seen the Lord in the dark moments of this journey. And there is joy in encountering the Lord, of following the Lord, of desiring to be like the Lord. I have experienced joy following Christ, and I hope others will through my ministry.
Dr. Knight: As a Deacon what are some of the duties that you perform/pray?
Deacon Andy: As a deacon, I am allowed to assist at Mass, preach, witness marriages, baptize, preside over funeral services, visit the sick, and be a visible witness to the presence of Christ in the world. At my ordination, I promised to pray the breviary for the people of God, which I do 5 times a day. One of my favorite deacon prayers during the Mass is when the deacon prepares the chalice. After pouring the wine, the deacon says as he pours a drop of water into the chalice, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” It is a beautiful and simple prayer the beautifully captures the Eucharistic liturgy, the faithful receiving the Bread of Heaven, and sharing in the divinity of Christ. Jesus humbled himself in our humanity, to open the way for us to share in his divinity.