Joey, you’ve been a parishioner here at the Church of Saint Mary for quite a long time.
Joey: We’re going on five years.
Where did you go to church before?
Joey: I grew up going to FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an order dedicated to the traditional Lat-in Mass). That’s the extraordinary form parish that Bishop Slattery established in the Diocese. I attended Mass there until I was about 10. and then we kind of hopped around parishes we were at Saints Peter and Paul for a little bit and then we were at the Church of the Madalene which is where I first met Father Jack. My family followed Father Jack when he re-turned to the Church of Saint Mary.
What led you to diocesan priesthood rather than the FSSP?
Joey: I’m so thankful that my parents made us attend that style of the Mass because it gave me an appreciation for the reverence that needs to be ob-served during the Mass.
Having attended Saints Peter and Paul through eighth grade and graduating from Bishop Kelley, I interacted with many diocesan priests along in my path of discernment. It has been extremely helpful towards my formation and discernment an even more so as I enter into this more formal period of discernment heading towards seminary.
It sounds like the idea that you want to become a priest has been some-thing that’s been growing in you for a long time.
Joey: I can’t say there’s been a defining moment. It’s been kind of just this persistent whisper since second grade. I had a second grade notion that priests are pretty cool. They celebrate the sacraments. They bring a lot of people to heaven. It sounded like a good thing.
Then it started getting a lot more serious in high school as i started going on retreats and started leading re-treats. It has been going more on my mind and was definitely more persistent throughout high school. That’s when I started developing more relationships with priests.
Going throughout the seminary application process, I found out how many priests I know. It was a fun experience just thinking about all the priests I know who have been such a positive influence.
Walk us through the application process.
Joey: It started when I got in touch with Father [Michael] Pratt, the dioce-san vocations director. We talked over the course of a year – mostly my senior year. We met once or twice a month. He encouraged me to keep [discernment] on my mind. He helped me diagnose where I was in my discernment.
At the end of my senior year we came to a crossroads. He asked, “Are we going to send you out to seminary? Are we going to send you straight out of high school or are should we wait until you go to college for a little bit?”
We decided it would be best if I went to college. I attended Pittsburg State in Kansas. It was really good considering I was only there a semester be-fore COVID. Although it was one semester, I made a lot of good friends. I definitely grew spiritually. I started consistently praying the Liturgy of the Hours and going to daily Mass and daily Adoration. I worked on developing a personal relationship with Christ.
You mentioned earlier that being a priest means offering the sacraments and bringing people towards heaven. What are some other attractive aspects of priestly life?
Joey: Priests like Father Jack are extremely hospitable. Every wedding, every funeral, there may be some non-Catholics present. He always does his best to clarify why we do things so there’s no confusion.
I also love that the priest is in persona Christi so he’s standing in the person of Christ. I think that’s such a beautiful image because when you think of Christ, His mercy is unbounded and His love is unending. As lay people, it is really important for us to set that image in our mind.
I also like the fact that the priest is willing to meet you wherever you are: no matter how far or how long it’s been since you went to confession or you’re going through a rough patch.
The Catholic faith is a pretty tough thing. It takes a lot of practice and persistence. I love the willingness of the priest to step into whatever level of life that you’re in and help you take the next step [toward holiness].
If you wish to write Joey, his address at seminary is:
5200 Glennon Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63119
This interview is part of a series called Parishioner Profiles. Past guests including Presley Reed, Eileen Ames, Michael Martin, Esther Loustaunau, Father Vince Fernandez, Ellen Doyle, Ellie Rocco and family, Father Shane Hewson, Kathleen Gathright, and many more. Watch them at YouTube.com/churchofsaintmary