March - 2014

ARTICLES

The Call
Father Daniel Kogut
The Fireman
Father Michael Denk
Prodigal Daughter
Gabby Shelton
1 of 3 articles

The Call

Father Daniel Kogut

Growing up, the priesthood was about the farthest thing from my mind. I was not sure priests were even actual human beings. I was pretty sure that priests were boring and lived dull, lonely lives. What did they do all day? Live in a hole and come out once a week to say Mass? No thanks.

What I was interested in was a military career. Everything I did in high school was essentially preparation for attending a military academy and then flight school, or so I thought. But something else happened in high school; I was exposed to a group of men who lived celibate lives so that they could serve God’s people more generously. This group of men, known as the Servants of the Word, planted the seed in my mind that maybe I should discern whether God was calling me to serve Him in a similar manner. As high school drew to a close, I began to pray more and to ask God what He really wanted for me. My future plans slowly began to change, and I moved away from a career in the military because I felt God nudging me in another direction.

When I set foot on campus at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan, I was seriously discerning a celibate vocation. I honestly believed that I was ready to make that sacrifice of my whole life; I thought I knew what it would take and that I was man enough to take up that kind of life for God.

Then I met Cathy. Wow… Cathy. We became friends first, but then I fell for her; it was not just the fact that she was beautiful; it was that she loved Jesus, it was that she loved her faith, it was that she was virtuous in a way that challenged me to be a stronger man of God; it was that the two of us had chemistry. It was a lot of things, but suffice it to say that I was in love. As for why Cathy fell for me, all I can tell you is that every single other person at Ave Maria was asking themselves the same question. There was a 3 to 1 girl-to-guy ratio at Ave Maria, and that counted the guys who were in priestly. I am pretty sure this fantastic guy/girl ratio had a lot to do with it, but the point is, she fell for me. This was totally awesome; I really could not believe that someone so amazing had the same feelings toward me as I had for her.

At the same time, it was not so awesome; I still had to discern. I had to know if God was calling me to marry this woman or…not. All of a sudden, celibacy seemed frightening, and I simply could not fathom the idea of spending the rest of my life without this person I had come to love. I had a very difficult time wrestling with a certain pull toward celibacy and yet a much stronger pull toward this relationship. At a certain point, I began to ask why God would want me to be a priest if He put Cathy in my life.

I sensed God might actually be calling me to the priesthood, and I really wanted to give God everything, my whole life; I wanted to be heroic. But my courage failed. I began to run away from the voice of God. I began to tell myself that there was no way that I could live without her, that God was not giving me the grace to be celibate. But I think deep down I always knew the truth—that I had allowed this relationship to become my idol. I allowed it to take the first place in my heart and I became deathly afraid of losing it. This was why I made a decision that I would pursue the vocation of marriage.

I became increasingly unsettled, however. My heart was restless, and it seemed like I was the rich young man, walking away from Jesus, sad that I did not love Him more than my idols. During a college Ethics class, the professor, Dr. Janet Smith, spoke about Saint Damien of Molokai, who volunteered to serve a leper community in Hawaii in the 1800’s. Because of his service to the people of Molokai, Saint Damien eventually died of leprosy himself—but not before converting most of the island. Dr. Smith explained that each one of us is made to live for others and sacrifice ourselves in the way Saint Damien did, and that we will not be truly happy until we do.

This struck a chord with me; it was through this that God reached out to me to say, “Dan, I want you to say yes to Me, because I know that you won’t be happy until you do.” Certainly, I could have been inspired by Saint Damien to live a generous and sacrificial life as a married man; I am the second oldest of seven, so I have a pretty good idea about marriage being an offering of one’s life to God. But somehow—I did not really know how—I realized that God was calling me to say yes to Him in a celibate life. I would not be happy until I did.

The next Thanksgiving break, I went home with a heavy heart and a difficult decision ahead of me. I was depressed and lethargic for a couple of days; my mom got worried when she saw that I was not even interested in the football game (it is tradition to watch the Detroit Lions lose on Thanksgiving Day). The day after Thanksgiving, I went out to the woods behind my parents’ house, and I prayed the first honest prayer of surrendering my life to Jesus. I told Jesus, “I am yours. I am all yours. And I will follow you into the priesthood or the mission field or wherever it is we’re going.” In that instant, my life changed, and I changed. My heart was flooded with so much peace, so much freedom, so much joy, that I could hardly believe it. I do not fully know how to explain why it made me so happy to say yes to Jesus except that we are made for a relationship with Jesus and it is only then that we are truly happy and free.

I was unsure at first how to pursue this new vocation, and I was scared of being wrong (again) about what God wanted for me. But as the weeks and months passed, this peace and joy in my heart did not fade; it was still real month after month. I graduated college and had to let Cathy go, but there was so much peace and joy even in the midst of that. I can tell you now that it has been ten years since that day in the woods, but the joy of following Jesus in the priesthood is still real.

As it turns out, life as a priest is not boring or lonely, and I even live in a house! I love being a priest; I love the fraternity with other priests; I love being a spiritual father to the 550 students at Powers Catholic High School; I love being able to witness to the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ that has set us free from our sins, and I love being able to show the world that our true fulfillment is not in this life—it is still on the way.

Jesus may or may not be calling you to the priesthood, but He is definitely calling you. He has good things for you. If you can drop your idols, you can see Him standing there, looking at you, loving you, and saying, “Come, follow Me.”
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Ordained in 2011 for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing, FATHER DANIEL KOGUT serves as Chaplain at Powers Catholic High School and as Parochial Vicar at St. Mary Queen of Angels in Swartz Creek, Michigan.
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