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Friday, March 28, 2008

"Family’s three sons called to priesthood"

Strand brothers from Dousman follow distinct paths to same destination in Catholic Church

By KATHERINE MICHALETS - Greater Milwaukee Today
March 27, 2008

From left, siblings, Jacob Strand, Vincent Strand and Luke Strand are seen in this August 2007 photo while in St. Paul, Minn., for Vincent’s vows. Jacob, Vincent and Luke say they have felt a calling from God to become priests.

MILWAUKEE - The path that Luke Strand has chosen to follow is not a common one, nor is it an easy one.

But it is one he feels God called him to take - to become a Catholic priest.

What makes his decision all the more extraordinary is that his two brothers, Vincent and Jacob, have chosen similar paths and are also studying to become ministers of God’s word during a time when the Catholic Church is experiencing a shortage of priests and increased scrutiny.

"I very much fell in love with the church. I think the Catholic Church is beautiful," Luke Strand, 27, said. "In a time when there is a lot of skepticism about the Catholic Church, I feel called to share the joys she brings to the world."

Growing up as Catholics in Dousman, the three brothers considered themselves religious but never seriously considered becoming priests.

"Our journeys are all very unique and each of us have our own gifts to offer the church," Luke Strand said.

Answering God’s calling

Vincent Strand, S.J., 25, was a student at Marquette University studying biological sciences and theology when he began to feel that God was calling him. He said that he began to spend time with people from the Society of Jesus, also called Jesuits.

"I really became convinced that God was calling me to be a Jesuit. I really thought he was asking me to do it personally," Vincent Strand said. "The call was not vague or abstract, it felt very concrete to me and that Jesus was speaking directly to my heart."

In December 2004, he began to apply for admittance to start the novitiate process with the Jesuits. He is currently in New York City striving for a master’s degree in philosophy as part of his education process in the Society of Jesus.

"There was just tremendous peace, joy and freedom," he said about pursuing God’s calling.

Jacob Strand, 22, said he started to think about becoming a priest while a senior at Kettle Moraine High School. After completing two years at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the desire became stronger.

"This began to occupy a larger area of my life," he said.

Jacob Strand thought going to seminary might help him discern better what he wanted to do with his life.

"When I began to look into this more closely, there was a strong sense of peace and that I was fulfilling what God wanted for me," he said.

In fall 2006, Jacob Strand entered seminary through the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but because Milwaukee doesn’t have a college seminary, he is at St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago.

Luke Strand, the oldest and first brother to chose the life of a priest, said he never considered becoming a priest while growing up. He said as a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he wanted a degree in marketing, to have a large Catholic family and to make money.

But those expectations began to change.

"I had some experiences that really led me to moments of conversion," Luke Strand said.

He said he started to frequent the Newman Center chapel and to help at a homeless shelter, Father Carr’s Place 2B.

"As I continued this journey, priesthood began to seem like something God was calling me to - something that God was putting in the forefront of my mind," he said.

Luke Strand is currently studying at the St. Francis Seminary, where he will be ordained a deacon this May and a priest in May 2009.

Family reaction and support

It hasn’t always been easy for the friends and family of the Strand brothers to understand their decisions.

"It's always surprising. It’s something that parents don’t expect," Luke Strand said, adding "They’ve been very encouraging in the process."

Their dad, Jerry Strand, admits it’s been difficult to accept their decisions at times.

"As parents, you always raise your kids to be independent and sometimes to take the road less traveled," he said. "We just didn’t think all three would make this decision."

Jerry Strand and his wife, Bernadette, have realized how happy their sons’ chosen vocations have made them.

"You get behind them and you give up personal selfishness," Jerry Strand said. "We’re just happy that our boys are able to make tough decisions."

"It wasn’t easy for them, but I’ve been amazed and grateful for how they’ve come to accept it and support us through it," Jacob Strand said of his parents.

The brothers have also received support from their younger sister, Theresa Strand.

Throughout the process, the brothers have been there for each other, as well.

"It’s a great support to have my brothers in many ways walking a similar path. We can understand one another - the struggles, as well as the joys, that our vocations offer us," Vincent Strand said.

The future of the Catholic Church

The Strand brothers see a vibrant future for the Catholic Church despite the recent sex scandals and decline in the number of priests.

"The church is certainly going through the healing process and through this process it will become stronger," Jacob Strand said. "Now I think there is even a renewed sense of integrity and there’s a renewed sense of hope."

Vincent Strand said that when he saw the Catholic Church in need, he wanted to help.

He said the Catholic Church and the Gospel are still relevant in the world and that the Catholic Church is growing globally.

"I think there is a great wave of young people who are zealous for the Catholic Church," Vincent Strand said.

Luke Strand agreed.

"People are searching for truth, and I think that search for the truth has led a lot of young people to the church, to priesthood and to religious life," he said.

Luke Strand feels optimistic.

"I think there’s something really great happening in the the church and it’s exciting to be a part of it," he said.

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