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Welcome Dominic Schoenle 6/25/23

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,

This weekend I asked Dominic to share his story.

“I was raised in a Catholic family in Plymouth, MI. I am the youngest of six- I have two older brothers and three older sisters. We attended Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor.

In middle school I got to attend a week-long summer Camp called Pine Hills, where I saw the witness of men authentically living Christianity in joy in a way I had not seen before. It made me have an open mind to all that I had been taught at Catholic school and Mass. What if it’s true? So, for that week I said, “I’m just gonna assume it’s all true, and see what happens,” and I opened my heart to the Holy Spirit and everything God wanted to give me. It was that week that solidified both that God is real and that I wanted Him to be the center of everything I do.

Until that point, I had been living in a place where I cared more about what other people thought of me than anything else. My friend group was the source of my identity. During that week at camp, I felt free from all that, and the Lord showed me a desire I had no idea that I had. I experienced a joy and a life that I had never known before, and I knew even if I lost all my friends, everything I had, the Lord is what I wanted. I wanted God to be the center. Little did I know this was the seed of a priestly vocation for a 7th grade Dominic. I think it was because I knew right then that I wanted Jesus to be the center. Even if I didn’t have the courage to live it then, because I wanted to be popular, I knew that’s really what I wanted.

Sophomore year was really a turning point for me. I had the choice either to go with the crowd and party or not, and by the grace of God I didn't. I just said, “Jesus, You know I want You, just give me more of You”. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, by leaning on Him, I walked through the years of high school, giving more and more of my life over to God. I came to a point where I lost almost all of my friends; the Lord was just slowly purifying that desire for more of Him. Interestingly enough, one thing I wouldn't give Him was seminary. I thought, “My life is yours as long as You don’t call me to be a priest." I thought I wouldn’t be happy unless I got married. That was my plan. I thought, "That’s what everybody does who’s normal. That’s what I’m gonna do because I’m normal.”

But I gave God a seed during my senior year: I was the rector of a four-day retreat, and I let God lead, whatever He wanted me to do. In small things I found that when I did His will instead of my own will, I was happier! Because three priests had asked me to consider priesthood in the previous year, this realization made me think seriously about seminary for the first time. I realized that even if I didn’t want to be a priest right then, if I’m called to be a priest that’s truly what will make me happiest. I decided to give it a shot and trusted God with the step into seminary, because I had peace and joy. I didn’t know if I would discern priesthood or not- a lot of guys discern out and marry. Even though I didn’t know what the outcome would be, I trusted in the Lord. It has been the most joyful decision I have made in my life.

Two graces I have received have been the gift of friends who desire to know the Lord more, and who love me like their brother, as well as the gift of intimacy with God that's deeper than I had ever had before. While the gift of seminary is great, it has made me desire even more the gift of priesthood. I see it not as an obligation, as I did in middle school, but as a fulfillment of the desire that God planted in me at Pine Hills, that I want to be all God’s. Even if I lose everything in this life, I know Eternal life is what I want; it is the pearl of great price.

Thank you and God bless you,

Dominic Schoenle

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