Project Andrew gives young men the
By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter
After Andrew met Jesus and spent the day with him, Andrew went back and sought his brother, so he too could come see the Lord.
This is how the name Project Andrew came about. It is where people bring others with them to experience the Lord.
The first gathering this year for Project Andrew took place on Jan. 18 at Holy Spirit Church in Carroll, with the second meeting being held on Jan. 29 at St. Joseph Church in Milford.
At Project Andrew, priests are asked to bring at least two young men who may be interested in becoming a priest, or who exemplify priestly characteristics. Each event had approximately 50 people attend with about 25 of them being young men.
The evening began with evening prayer in the church followed by dinner and a presentation. Father Brad Pelzel, diocesan director of vocations, talked about the priesthood and shared his story on the long journey he traveled down to become a priest.
In his speech, Father Pelzel pointed out that, “It is not important what you want to do with your life. The real question is what does God want you to do?”
Father Pelzel pointed out how important events like this are. He said that about 75 percent of priests today attribute their choice to talks they had with their parish priest as they were growing up.
“That’s what the program does. It provides a forum for conversation to take the next step. Where it’s not only a priest identifying a young man as someone with priestly qualities, but it’s an invitation to come to a talk,” said Father Pelzel. “It’s not just a conversation in passing; this makes it more concrete in the eyes of the young men.”
Father Pelzel also noted that as a young man thinking about becoming a priest, he can often feel alone or the odd man out. Events like this allow the men to see that they are not alone, there are other young men just like them considering the priesthood.
“The interest level and the excitement of the young men was terrific. The group of young men that indicated that they’re interested in pursuing a vocation is the best that we’ve seen in five years, in my experience of doing these things,” said Father Pelzel.
During the presentation portion of the event, several people spoke. At the Milford event, Tucker Lutter, a member of the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, spoke on his plans to join the seminary when he is out of high school. Evans (Pascal) Mbaya, a Kenyan native who is in his pastoral year, talked about his choice to join the priesthood. John Sandy, who teaches confirmation classes at St. Mary Parish in Spirit Lake, also talked to the crowd.
Each priest at the event stood up and explained what they love about being a priest and gave a few words of encouragement.
Bishop Walker Nickless was the last priest to speak and he explained to the young men just how rewarding his job is. He talked about the wonderful works he gets to do every day.
“One of the greatest things a priest can do is celebrate the sacraments. Especially, hearing someone say confession. To know that God uses us to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ is amazing,” said Bishop Nickless.
He also talked about the privilege of turning the bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood.
“We do things that angels cannot do. His very presence before us, that is extraordinary,” said Bishop Nickless.
He also went on to encourage and challenge the young men to listen to what the Lord is saying to them in prayer, listen to what others are saying about them and turn to God and ask him what he wants them to do with their talents.
Zach Jones and Gabe Goehring attended Project Andrew in Milford. Both men are members of Milford’s high school youth group and were asked to attend by Father Jim McCormick.
“We got to hang out with some pretty cool guys, and we talked about our future,” said Goehring.
“It’s just kind of interesting to see the different priest’s outlook on the priesthood and how they’ve enjoyed it through the years,” said Jones.
Shawn Vaske of Bancroft attended the Carroll retreat. After the event, he talked about how he learned a lot from the night. He learned about the different lifestyles of the priests and got to find out what they do every day.
“I am ultimately very happy with myself that I did indeed go, and I feel very fortunate that the opportunity was presented to me,” said Vaske. “I also was fortunate enough to have about a ten minute discussion with the bishop about some questions I had.”
Vaske also noted that he would recommend others to attend this event. He said that even if someone doesn’t want to join the seminary, it was great to learn what a Catholic priest does and how much work they do for the community.
“I have not discarded the idea of a priest's vestments possibly being in my future, but whatever the outcome of my decision, I will always know the happiness these men have found performing good deeds through the power of Christ,” said Vaske.
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