Father Wesley Schawe appointed
Director of Priestly Vocations
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
Father Wesley Schawe, pastor of St. Dominic Parish, Garden City, and St. Stanislaus Parish, Ingalls, has been appointed full-time Director of the Office of Priestly Vocations.
Effective July 6, Father Schawe will occupy an office at the Catholic chancery in Dodge City, at which time Father Rene Labrador will begin serving as pastor of the two parishes.
“It’s incredibly sad to leave two places that you love,” Father Schawe said. “I will certainly miss St. Dominic and St. Stanislaus, but I really feel that this is where God wants me to be and where the bishop wants me to be.
“Doing God’s will, I can’t help but be excited.” As exemplified by his series of columns in the Register, Bishop Brungardt is conducting a full-court press to urge boys and single men to listen to God’s call, whether it be to the priesthood or to be a husband and dad.
“Currently, we have 18 active diocesan priests,” the bishop explained. “Of these, 15 priests are over 50 years old. Thus, in 20 years when they are retired, only three priests will remain. Assuming our current average ordination rate of one new priest every five years or so, we may have four new priests, thus a total of seven diocesan priests 20 years from now. How will we provide our beautiful sacraments, Holy Mass, confession, anointing of the sick, and others, to our 48 parishes in 28 counties?”
The bishop also noted that the Diocese of Dodge City currently has 12 extern priests from other dioceses and religious orders serving here – something for which he offers his sincere appreciation: “We thank them for their sacrifice of being far from home and family to make our diocese their new home. They enrich our parishes with their gifts and cultures.”
“I know that priestly vocations are a central focus for us,” Father Schawe said. “Like the bishop said in his letter to me, [my new assignment] is a call for me to help the boys and single men listen to God’s call in their life. Is God calling them to be a priest, or a husband and dad? Who knows? God knows.
“We need faithful husbands and dads, and we need faithful priests. I know God’s calling men to be priests, or God wouldn’t be calling us to salvation. It’s not a question of whether, it’s a question of who.”
Father Schawe was assigned to the Garden City and Ingalls parishes in February 2008. Before that he assisted at Prince of Peace Parish in Great Bend and at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City. Combine that experience with his years as a deacon and seminarian, and he’s had nearly a decade to get to know the young men of the diocese.
“We have no shortage of good raw material to work with.”
“Our boys and single men are called to listen in prayer,” the bishop added, “and take the next step toward the priesthood or to be husbands and dads. Jesus’ nudge might be to speak with his pastor, or with Father Schawe, or with me, your new bishop.
“Jesus often taught: ‘do not be afraid’ (Matthew 17:7). God has wonderful plans for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, and our Loving Lord is calling many boys and single men to the diocesan priesthood here in southwest Kansas. We are all called to help them listen to Jesus’ prompting in their hearts.”
Father Schawe echoed the bishop’s appeal for boys and single men to discern what may be God’s call to the priesthood.
“If we are not putting the energy and attention into fostering priestly vocations, then you’re sort of like cutting off the source of the river. All the little tributaries that reach into different ministries, those tributaries won’t flow.”
Father Schawe agreed that the attitude toward the priesthood has changed in recent decades. “Not every family sees it as a blessing as it once was,” Father Schawe said. “The more that families encounter holy, happy, healthy priests, the more they will see it as a blessing.
“That’s half of it,” he noted. “The more that they understand the priesthood -- that notion of truly feeding the world the Body and Blood of Jesus, or being Jesus present to the world -- the more they see the priesthood itself as a blessing for their son, for their family.
“At the heart of it, I’ve come to realize more and more that the only way I can be happiest in my life is only if I am doing what God made me for,” Father Schawe added. “So if I’m doing something with my life or in my life that is other than what God made me for, it doesn’t mean I’ll be totally miserable, but I won’t find total fulfillment. If I want to find total fulfillment in life, it can only be if I find what God’s call is for me, and if I follow it.”
Although much of the bishop’s focus has been on the vocation to the priesthood, Bishop Brungardt emphasized that he is consulting with many people to discern their “hopes and dreams for improving marriage, family life, and Natural Family Planning in the diocese. The marriage vocation is another wonderful gift from God,” he said.
“I hope to assist vocation directors from religious communities in order to help discernment to the religious life.”
“I am excited about Father Wesley’s new appointment as Director of the Office of Priestly Vocations and look forward to working with him,” said Becky Hessman, Coordinator of Vocations. “Father Wesley has been a great support to me these past almost six years that I have served the diocese in vocation ministry. ‘Personal vocation’ has been our diocesan focus for a number of years through our diocesan Called and Gifted process and Word Working. Now it is time to turn our hearts to diocesan priesthood. Father Wesley’s love for people and love for the priesthood will help us do that.”
Father Schawe won’t be alone in his new endeavors.
“Father Schawe and I will be listening to the hopes and dreams of priests, religious and laity of the diocese regarding priestly vocations,” Bishop Brungardt stressed. “He and I will develop plans for the future: stay tuned! Let us trust in Jesus to give us the grace and insight we all need in the diocese promote priestly vocations.
“Father Wesley is a wonderful pastor and has a profound identity as a diocesan priest,” the bishop added. “He speaks Spanish well, which is a blessing in our culturally diverse diocese. Father Wesley will serve us with enthusiasm as full-time director of the Office of Priestly Vocations. This diocesan-level assignment will allow him to devote his full energy to this important ministry, as he assists me, and all the Catholics of the diocese, to promote vocations to the diocesan priesthood of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.”