Different paths, same destination
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Christmas is an especially important time for family get-togethers for most people.
Andrew Rockers and Chad Stramel talked about how much family support helped them make their vocation choices and how important their extended family is along their path to becoming a Catholic priest.
The Hays High School graduates -- now in their last two years at Kenrick-Glennon Catholic Seminary in St. Louis before being ordained priests in the fall of 2015 -- spoke to an audience Wednesday night as part of the "Stewards of Hope" pastoral plan for the Diocese of Salina.
Following their talks at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church in Hays, the seminarians were presented checks from the Knights of Columbus councils from St. Nicholas and Stramel's home parish of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Munjor.
"Wow, I sure didn't expect this," Stramel said of the several hundred dollars he tucked into his pocket.
It was much like a Christmas surprise of days gone by for Stramel, the second oldest of five boys of Glenn and Rhonda Stramel of Munjor.
"Family life was very important growing up," Stramel said.
"Man only finds himself when he gives the gift of oneself. That's what family life is."
Stramel talked how his brothers and parents "were important in planting (faith) seeds" in him.
He has fond memories of participating in Catholic customs, even away from home.
"No matter where we went," he said, "we went to Sunday Mass, and we would pray the rosary on trips."
Rockers' path to the seminary was different than that of Stramel, who was baptized as an infant and grew up immersed in Catholic traditions from Day 1.
Rockers, the youngest of two sons of Glenn and Barbara Rockers of Hays, wasn't baptized into the Catholic faith until he was 11 and didn't decide to pursue the priesthood until his junior year in college.
Rockers said that now, "every week in the seminary, my excitement to become a priest grows."
"Our vocation is our particular path to happiness," he said. "Oftentimes, we approach a vocation in a fearful way, but God's way is for us to be happy in our vocation."
Rockers said while "everything else, (pursuing the priesthood) has its ups and downs, "each step has brought more and more happiness in my life."