By Monica Organ
Photography by Michael Lieurance and Allison Amundson
Becoming a priest is a long journey and one that is not for everyone and is not always filled with certainty. Newly-ordained Father Sedlacek would be the first to tell you it’s not a decision you make lightly—or even only once.
“At the end of each year, I would ask Our Lord in prayer whether He wanted me to return to seminary and continue toward the priesthood. Each year, the answer I ‘heard,’ that is, which gave me peace, was ‘Yes!’”
Father Sedlacek entered college seminary at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. There he found great joy and peace in the brotherhood and friendship among fellow seminarians, and a great education in philosophy and Catholic studies.
During his first four years of college, Father Sedlacek said he was taught how to allow God to mold him into the man He wanted him to be, through prayer, spiritual direction, study and charity.
After his first four years, he was given a unique opportunity to continue in major seminary, that is, the last four years of priestly formation after college and philosophy studies, at the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome. Father Sedlacek appreciated the chance to finalize his schooling a mere seven-minute walk from St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican.
“Literally, the pope lived in my neighborhood and the bones of St. Peter, the first pope and the leader of the Apostles, were just ‘down the hill.’ It is indeed a blessing to study for the priesthood within the shadow of the Prince of the Apostles and in a city that has been made holy through the blood of the martyrs.”
Father Sedlacek said the last year of seminary was full of excitement, which began with his diaconate ordination in Rome.
“I was so blessed because a lot of my family was able to be there and Cardinal Dolan was there to ordain me,” he said. “Thirty-eight of us were ordained that day. It was very special because Bishop Callahan was able to come, too.”
After he was ordained a deacon, he said the seminary formation shifts more towards the immediate, more practical knowledge, such as practicing how to say Mass, preaching in Mass as deacons and practicing other sacraments.
“During our priest formation, we practice the sacrament of confession where one of us would pretend to be the penitent and the other would practice absolving their sins while a priest moderator watched,” he said. “We practiced anointing of the sick and baptism and marriage in a practical way.”
Even with months of practice, the impending ordination approaches quickly and Father Sedlacek had to stay focused on keeping the right mind-set throughout all the preparations.
“As you approach ordination, it can be daunting, but I just had to remember the last eight years and where the Lord has led me up to this point,” he said.
After years of prayer, study, practice and advice, then-Deacon Sedlacek was ready for his ordination day.
“The big advice I was given about ordination is to not go in with any preconceived notions,” he said. “The best thing to do is just allow God to touch me in whatever way He has prepared and whatever graces and blessings He wants to give me.”
Priest Unity Days preceded his ordination and he said being surrounded by his soon-to-be brother priests was an overwhelmingly joyful experience.
“It’s a pretty indescribable experience because they encouraged me to be with many of the priests during the unity days, and the encouragement and joy I could see on their part made me realize that this is where I belong and this is where I fit in,” he said.
Father Sedlacek was the only deacon ordained a priest in 2016 and that realization that he was alone before the bishop was not lost on him.
“I didn’t take lightly the fact that all those people who came and participated were there in part just for me,” he said. “I know a lot were there to support the entire diocese, but it was a humbling experience and I was amazed to be standing in front of them.”
He wasn’t sure when or if it would happen, but Father Sedlacek said the biggest and most grace-filled moment of the ordination was the laying on of hands.
“When Bishop Callahan laid his hands on my head, I felt the grace and peace, that I had, increase and deepen, especially when all the priests came through,” he said. “I didn’t expect that, but you never know when the Lord’s grace hits you and all you can be is grateful.”
He said the whole weekend was such a beautiful experience, but after ordination he had to then prepare for his first Mass at home in Cornell at Holy Cross Church.
“I think I was more nervous about my first Mass, but 19 priests were able to come and concelebrate with me and the church was packed with family, friends and parishioners,” he said. “But once I was out there, it was amazing how all the nervousness just went away and I was totally calm. Everything seemed so normal, and that was a very touching grace.”
As a priest for only a short time, Father Sedlacek looks forward to the very broad experience he is sure to get at his first assignments at St. John the Baptist Parish in Marshfield and Christ the King Parish in Spencer, and as chaplain to Columbus Middle and High schools in Marshfield.
It will be great to have one assignment that includes a city parish, where there are more activities, and a smaller, rural parish,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to going to the middle school, not sure yet what that means, but I’m looking forward to working with the kids and helping them grow.”