Pittsburgh Catholic article by: Paula A. Smith
Bob and Carmella Kesicki smiled as they shared a photo of their son, Father Michael, putting a chasuble on his younger brother, Father Timothy, on the day of Timothy’s priesthood ordination.
“It’s just about the holiest day of your life when your child becomes ordained,” Bob said.
When their sons became priests, Bob said he experienced a feeling of inspiration from the Holy Spirit, finally seeing their years of raising children in a religious atmosphere come to fruition.
The Kesickis have been married 48 years and have four children: Daniel, Father Michael, Father Timothy, Mary Theresa and two grandchildren. They are active members of St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, and attend daily Mass. They lived and raised their family in Erie.
Father Michael is a diocesan priest, a teacher at Gannon University and rector of St. Mark’s Seminary in Erie. Father Timothy is a Jesuit priest and president of St. Ignatius High School, a boys’ preparatory school in Cleveland.
Just as brothers Simon and Andrew and James and John left their nets when Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” Fathers Michael and Timothy heard the call and followed. They say their greatest influences in becoming priests were their parents and the priests and nuns at Sacred Heart Parish in Erie, who gave them good examples to follow.
“The most important thing my parents have done is fulfill their own vocation as spouses and parents,” Father Michael said. “That my parents love each other and sacrifice for each other is evident in the care and faith they passed on to their children. The church is a communion of faith, hope and love rooted in the mission of Christ to live for the truth, make an offering of oneself and serve others. In an analogous way, the family home is also a ‘small church’ — rooted in Christian truth, sacrifice and loving service to others. This was the home my parents created.”
He felt a call to the priesthood at age 7, and as he grew into adulthood he never doubted it was the life he was meant to live.
“My parents have been supportive of the decisions of all their children. Their chief concern was that I wasn’t doing this to please them. Mom and Dad wanted me to be sure that I knew the seriousness of this commitment. While they would be happy with my decision, they didn’t want me to do it for them, but for the Lord and his call in my life,” Father Michael said.
“My father has truly been the ‘paterfamilias’ (father of the family) in every good way. He provided for his family, taught us in faith and virtue, and he never nagged his children. At the same time, he was able in his own quiet and gentle way to teach us how important it is to have a strong relationship with the Lord,” he said.
“My mother has also been an important influence. She always had a heart for neighbors and friends, especially when they were in need.”
Father Timothy remembers that his mother and father reached out to others in faith and through the church that was central in their lives. They were involved in church and school events while the children were growing up, and the parish was the family’s primary means of socialization. Priests were invited home for family dinners and often mentioned to the brothers the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. So becoming a priest was considered a real option for them.
When Father Timothy was 20, he completed an eight-day silent retreat based on the teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. He was attracted to the spirituality of the saint and embraced his mission to encourage dynamic people to follow and use their gifts and talents in the service of God. At the time, Father Timothy realized a strong desire to learn more about the Jesuit order and their place in the church, but found it to be a humbling experience at a young age with so many wonderful Jesuit role models. The pastor at his home parish was acquainted with a few Jesuit priests and introduced him so he could gain more information.
Father Timothy realized the seed for a vocation to the priesthood was within him, and while visiting the Jesuit novitiate he felt he wanted to be part of this religious group as he sensed a strong feeling of belonging in their fellowship.
“There was something greater that I felt called to do. I had to trust those desires inside me, listen deep down and go with it. You have to put it in God’s hands. I had to be patient, and he revealed it in his time,” he said.
God did reveal his plans for Father Timothy and, although his vocation came as a surprise to his family, his parents accepted the decision in faith.
His mother told him, “If you find happiness in this, we will be happy for you.”
As parents, they understood that a call to the priesthood is an honor.
“It’s a gift of God. They serve the people,” Carmella said.
“It’s a special calling they have received,” Bob said. “Now as I reflect on it, I see that they truly are priests and they respect their vocation very deeply. They know how to serve the communities they are in very well.”
Taking their religious vocations seriously as priests is a reflection of the way Bob and Carmella share responsibility as parents. Raising four children close in age was challenging at times, and they encountered similar situations many parents face today.
It was not easy to do, but Bob and Carmella strongly believed it was important for a mother to be home with children in their formative years. To support the family, Bob worked two jobs. As the children grew older, Carmella returned to work outside the home.
“We could not afford it at the time, but the most important thing was for the children not to come home to an empty house,” Bob said
And the Kesicki home was filled with love, laughter, prayers and dinners together.
“We always tried to have one family meal together,” Carmella said.
Daniel, their oldest son, remembers having family dinners and observing the church regulations of fast and abstinence during Lent.
“The basis of my parents’ religious practice is that Christian sense of loving sacrifice that is seen in the ebb and flow of family living,” Father Michael said. “I think you instill the sense of belonging to God’s family by first instilling the sense of belonging to your own. Our evening meal was always a time to be together. We never ate ‘on the run.’ Dinnertime was a time to talk about the day, to tell stories and enjoy being together. Besides, my mother is a fantastic cook.”
Along with prayers before meals and bedtime, the family worshipped weekly at Sunday Mass and the children attended Catholic schools. Christian values of honesty, fairness and respect were instilled in them. Growing up in a Christ-centered home embedded with moral principles was a typical family experience for Daniel and Mary Theresa, who says her three brothers are certainly blessings in her life.
“We were raised as normal everyday children,” Daniel said. “We played pranks on each other, hide and seek, and board games ’til all hours of the night together.”
Daniel said he is happy his brothers found their calling and pursued it, and he would support a child or relative interested in the religious life.
“Whenever we are together, it is like we were never apart,” he said.
While a religious vocation is a personal commitment, Father Timothy believes parents should not discourage their son or daughter by worrying if they will be lonely or happy. He suggests talking about it and letting them know this is something they could do, and to be unafraid.
“A religious vocation is a real-life vocation. It is a beautiful vocation in the church. I try daily to live out the spiritual mission of St. Ignatius Loyola and be a true servant of the church,” he said.
One of Father Timothy’s favorite verses comes from the Spiritual Exercises in the first principle and foundation of St. Ignatius Loyola: “Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God and, by so doing, save his soul.”
Father Michael said prayer is so important in recognizing a call to the religious life. “You don’t get an envelope in the mail from God with written instructions. A relationship with God and an honest relationship with family and friends help me to be honest with myself and discern what is the true path of Christian vocation.
“Live your life responsibly and well right now. Strive to be a person of integrity. Always make the time to have a relationship with God rooted in prayer every day.
“Make the Eucharist a daily priority. You can’t think of giving your life to God as a priest unless you are learning to grow in a relationship with him right now. I would also advise you to seek out a priest as spiritual director; he can help you listen for the voice of God in your life,” Father Michael said.
To listen for the voice of God, he relies on the words he prays every day in the Liturgy of the Hours from Psalm 95: “O, that today you would hear his voice: Harden not your hearts.”
If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.