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June 4, 2017

No ‘lightning strikes,’ but ‘the subtle movement of the heart’

Christian DeCarlo
Home parish: St. Alphonsus Liguori, Zionsville

Christian DeCarloPlease tell us about your family background and hometown.

I was born in Indiana and grew up in Zionsville, a true Hoosier some might say. I have two wonderful parents — my dad, Mark, and my mother, Ann — and my younger sister Sarah. My dad is a physical therapist and specializes on knee rehabilitation. My mom is a pediatric nurse. My sister just graduated from Anderson University this past May in elementary education and is going to make a wonderful teacher. My hometown of Zionsville has been such a great place to grow up, with a great school and a great parish.

Where did you go to school and to church? What were some of the activities you were involved in? What jobs did you have before entering the seminary?

I went to Zionsville Community High School and was very involved in the marching band in the summer and in the fall. I was a drum major for three out of the four years in the band. It was one of my favorite high school experiences, leading the 120-person band throughout the years in the competitions, in the practices and the many home football games. I also was involved in the stage crew for both the musicals in the late fall, the show choir tech crew in the winter, and the stage crew for the school plays in the spring. I worked as a lifeguard at the school pool, worked at the Performing Arts Center in Zionsville, and I worked a summer on the maintenance staff at St. Alphonsus.

In the Church, I was a member of the Knights of the Holy Temple for three years. It was a great experience and one of the most formative things that I did in high school. It formed me in my faith and kept me involved in the Church. I also met a lot of great men around my age who were great influences on me and in my faith.

What led to your decision to become a priest? How did you feel that you were called?

If I was not a member of the Knights of the Holy Temple, I would not be here in seminary. I was invited to be a part of the Knights at St. Alphonsus my sophomore year of high school by Father Brian Doerr. This changed everything. Through his example of living the priestly life, getting to know him and my pastor, Father Dennis O’Keeffe, they taught me the Catholic faith. I became proficient at serving and became very knowledgeable regarding the parts of the Mass and how it flowed.

Part of being a Knight of the Holy Temple was the discussion of our vocations. I thought, “I trust you, Father, I will give it some thought.” I kept thinking and praying about it and the desire kept growing stronger and stronger. I kept praying and talking to my brothers, especially Deacon Michael Bower. He was a huge influence on me and a real brother to me, helping answer my questions and giving me some encouragement when I needed it. Father Doerr, Father O’Keeffe and Deacon Bower were instrumental in helping me discern my vocation. I was praying very fervently about my call, and there were no flashy moments or “lightning strikes” from God, but just the subtle movement of the heart nudging me to the priesthood. I finally found the courage to say yes after a year at Purdue university and then I entered college seminary in St. Paul, Minn., at St. John Vianney Seminary.

Who has inspired and encouraged you during your years of formation? How?

Father O’Keeffe has been a great inspiration to me; Father Doerr, Deacon Bower, Deacon Cole Daily, all of the diocesan seminarians, have been such a huge gift, inspiring me in different ways.

Father O’Keeffe has had a great impact on my formation during breaks when I stay with him at the rectory. We have many great conversations and I pick his brain about his priestly experience. He always has a funny story and a great way to explain how he does things in the parish. I am truly very grateful for him. Father Doerr has also had a continuous impact on my vocation and our friendship is one that I truly cherish. His steady encouragement of me in my vocation has been something that is unparalleled. He was always there when I needed to talk, and helped me all along the way in my discernment process.

What experiences have affirmed your calling since entering the seminary?

There have been many experiences in the summers that have been very affirming. I spent a whole summer at Camp Wojtyla in Colorado. I was with 30 other counselors serving middle school and high school students. It was so affirming in my vocation because I was able to give so freely of myself to the staff and students that attended and to share the faith that I have come to love so deeply. Another summer I was able to live with the Missionaries of Charity in New York City in a men’s shelter with a few other diocesan seminarians. We lived in the shelter and served the men and women that came for the soup kitchen and the men in the evening that stayed with us in the shelter. It was wonderful to serve the men that came in and share the Gospel with them, a very priestly thing to do.

What do you look forward to in the next year as a deacon?

I am very excited about serving as a deacon this year, preaching the Gospel, baptizing, and assisting at Mass. This will be a very special and great year as a deacon, preparing for priesthood next year.


Related story: ‘Showing themselves to be servants to all’: Two men ordained to transitional diaconate

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