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From PKT to Priesthood

Tuesday, June 20, 2017   (0 Comments)
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By Stephen Lee (Lewis, ’10)

priestMatt Kirk (University of Wisconsin, '15) has come a long way since his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin.

Image: Brothers Matt Kirk and Sam Gagliardi.

"I originally came to college not wanting to practice my Catholic faith” he explains. "But I found the secular world did not provide the answers I was looking for”.

So he started listening.

Matt began attending mass and listened intently to sermons. He prayed and focused deeply on silent meditation."

I was able to hear God speaking to me through the desires of my heart.”

As it turns out, what Matt heard was a calling to become a Catholic priest. That was his junior year, and he was studying mechanical engineering.

He was determined to finish the degree, and was even offered his dream job at John Deere. "God gave me this choice so that I could choose freely that I wanted to be a priest”, he explained. "It took a long time to make this difficult but rewarding decision”.

Matt couldn’t ignore his calling, and he landed at St. Francis de Sales Seminary just south of Milwaukee.

Matt loves to talk about his new home. "St. Francis de Sales is the oldest seminary in the United States that still on resides on its original foundation circa 1855. It is a provincial seminary which means that it trains men to become priests from the state of Wisconsin. Interestingly, another seminary is located on the south side of Milwaukee in the city of Franklin called Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. This seminary is run by the order of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, and it is the location that I receive my intellectual formation in philosophy, Catholic Doctrine, scripture, and other theology.”

At age 25, Matt has learned a key lesson in life. "Life is messy. Every person carries their own unique baggage that at times can be very heavy. It is essential that we be compassionate and help them on their journey. Consequentially, this journey has many highs and many lows, and we need to keep climbing to reach the goal of union with Christ in Heaven.”

When asked how he wants to impact people, Matt answered, "by showing them that they are truly loved by God, and through this they may come to know, to love, and to serve Jesus Christ.”

priestOf course, there are challenges to life in the Seminary. "Sometimes it can be hard to sit in the classroom because I want to be out in the world showing others the light and truth of Christ”, Matt explains. "In addition, it can be a struggle to balance the pillars of spiritual, intellectual, pastoral, and human formation with maintaining a personal life along with other seminary activities like basketball and prayer.

Image: Matt Kirk led a group of Phi Kaps on a recent pilgrimage to Holy Hill to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Matt will be in the seminary for a few years and hopes to become ordained as a deacon, then a priest who will serve the people in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. "Specifically I will be assigned a parish, a specific territory, by the Archbishop of Milwaukee, and I will act under his guidance to shepherd the people within that territory.”

Matt follows the example set by priests at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in particular Fr. Eric Nielsen and Fr. Mark Miller. "They have been essential in demonstrating the life of a holy, prayerful priest, and they were patient and understanding in helping me sort through my specific baggage that I carried on my journey.”

He also cites the Vocations Director of Milwaukee, Fr. Luke Strand. "He demonstrated for me the unitive power that came from the struggle of Jesus Christ on the cross as he suffered from an intense cancer treatment.”

In 2016, Matt visited an adult daycare every Tuesday to spend time with folks on the last leg of their life. "It was very eye-opening to learn that my presence has made an impact on their lives.”

In addition, he belonged to a Catholic youth group that met twice a month to discuss faith, and he remains in contact with Fraternity brothers to assist with their journey in life.

The Fraternity has set Matt up for success in the seminary. "PKT truly has shown me what it means to be a Catholic gentleman who serves society, Fraternity and God. The Fraternity provided me with great leadership experience which will be essential in this specific vocation by leading a parish. Interestingly, the business meetings have been an important aspect as well. Those meetings taught me patience and the Roberts Rules of Order that are commonly utilized within parish meetings. Living in the fraternity house taught me to live with other men and being respectful of their space, which is very similar to the living in community at the seminary.”

Matt is also excited about the Cardinal Donald Wuerl Spiritual Development Fund, which will support programs designed to nurture the spiritual focus of the Fraternity and the spiritual development of its brothers.

Matt’s favorite quote from Cardinal Wuerl: "Catholic teaching presents a beautiful vision for life even as we struggle to live it – even as we struggle fully to understand it”.

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