Sunday, July 31, 2011

From Cleats to a Clerical Collar...

"What a waste...." or such was the whisper of the person sitting next to me when this news was report on the TV in the waiting room where I was sitting...

Chase Michael Hilgenbrinck McDonald was born in 1982 in Quincy, Illinois and he is famous for being a soccer defender with a pro career who ditched it all to become a Roman Catholic Priest.  His parents were ordinary mid-western folk --  dad a regional sales manager for a fertilizer dealership and mom an accountant with State Farm Insurance -- who raised their children in the faith. They took their two boys to Holy Trinity Church in Bloomington, where each served as an altar boy.

Chase made the US Under-17 national team then played for Clemson University, was drafted to a Chilean team, and after four seasons there, he joined Colorado Rapids in early 2008.  Because of a salary cap issue, he was waived but then signed with the New England Revolution.  Hilgenbrick's last game was on a Sunday, July 13 2008, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.  In the summer of 2007, he received the application packet for the priesthood from the vocation director at the Peoria diocesan office.  He retired from soccer on July 14, 2008 to enter the Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland in order to become a priest.  He expects to be ordained in May of 2014.

It was said that his teammates were shocked by his decision.  Suffice it to say that the fellow sitting next to me was not only shocked but felt it a waste of his talent and gift, squandered in service to the Lord.  I write not about Chase Hilgenbrinck but about the way we look at church vocations today.  I have found personally that the biggest impediments to getting youth to consider church work careers are his or her parents.  This is especially true with boys and the Pastoral Ministry.

When I was a child, church work vocations were considered a high and holy calling, one that honored the family as well as the Lord.  Maybe I spent too much time watching Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary's, or The Shoes of the Fisherman, and such.  Maybe it was a different era.  I lament the way that church service careers have dropped in esteem.  The Roman Catholic Church can blame this as well as the abuse scandal for their lack of candidates for the priesthood.  Jim Nestingen once told me that the seminaries (at least as he noted it within the ELCA) seemed to be magnets for wounded people seeking personal healing.  I know that he is right there and some of it is true in Missouri as well.  I am concerned that we do not seem to be doing as great job today as we did in the past encouraging and supporting first career men as Pastors.  We tend to shepherd our best and brightest into other callings (more uniformly respected and more highly remunerated than church service vocations).  It is also true that our "teacher's colleges" are not producing all that many parochial school teachers, either.

I do not know Chase Hilgenbrinck but I applaud the attention given to his decision and hope that it will give pause to parents and youth sorting out the call of God and a vocation to church work. 


Anonymous said...

LCMS parents in suburbia do not want
their sons to be pastors. Here are
some of the reasons I have heard.
"He is an honor roll student in
high school and needs to go to a
top notch University.
"With a good college education he
will make more money and get a better job
"We love our son too much to submit
him to a thankless career.

Anonymous said...

"A religious revival of unprecedented scale is going on in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and other countries of the former Soviet bloc. This renaissance, experienced by all religious confessions, is particularly noticeable in the Russian Orthodox Church: within twenty years, the number of its parishes grew from 6 to 30 thousand, the number of monasteries from 18 to 750, the number of theological schools from 3 to 100, and the number of priests more than quadrupled. Quantitative growth went hand in hand with qualitative changes. The Church, which for decades had only been able to serve the ‘religious needs’ of its members, turned to those outside and engaged in a wide range of missionary, educational and charitable activities.

Similar processes are underway in the Romanian, Serbian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches, which also suffered under communist regimes, as well as in some other Local Orthodox Churches. Great missionaries carry out their apostolic work, such as Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, who was able to practically re-create an Orthodox Church that had been reduced to zero by militant atheists. The Orthodox Church does not suffer from a ‘crisis of vocations’, about which so many Christian Churches are constantly complaining. On the contrary, Orthodox theological seminaries, academies and faculties are full of young men and women eager to serve the Church, monasteries and convents are filled with monks and nuns." Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

Anonymous said...

Second Career pastors in the LCMS
are sometimes men who lost their job
due to downsizing of their company.
At the age of 50 their options are
limited. The baggage they bring to
the pastoral ministry is frustration
and lack of theology from a secular
college. A St. Louis Sem professor
told me that these men will never
be theologians but merely warm bodies
in their parish. Yet their desire
to serve the Lord is commendable.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want my son to be a RCC priest because he wouldn't be able to marry. I think a man should marry before he is ordained. Selfishly, I want grandkids, but I wouldn't want him to be lonely.

Anyway, how do we know this guy's parents were all so excited? Maybe they told him to wait and see. Pastor Fisk advised men considering ministry to wait until couldn't wait any longer. That way they will be sure.

Even Billy Joel told aspiring singers/musicians/artists that the life is only for those who cannot stop themselves from doing. It is all or nothing.

Terry Maher said...

The reaction is right on target.

A life spent in the Roman Catholic priesthood is a waste. Any good for Christ and his Church that comes of it will be in spite of it and its false doctrine and practice, not because of it.

Likewise Orthodox nunneries and monkeries and other ies.

Apples and oranges with the Office of Holy Ministry. The Reformation began nearly 500 years ago and they chose to cling to their mixture of Gospel and anti-Gospel.

We have got to stop looking back at Rome and Constantinople like lot and the pillar of salt.

Anonymous said...

@maher:Why the name-calling of RC's and Orthodox? Such love from a true believer, not!

Anonymous said...

A life spent in the Roman Catholic priesthood is a waste? I am not so sure that Luther would agree. For all that is wrong, and rightly condemned, Luther insisted that they had the Mass and Baptism and that the were still church -- something he was not so sure of when it came to the radical reformers and their legacy...

Past Elder said...

It was the case of a young man who gave up an athletic career for the Roman Catholic priesthood, not the Protestant ministry, that came up.

I too would rather drink the blood of Christ with the pope than wine with Zwingli.

As to name calling, the question is not name calling but are the names true or not. If the RC, or for that matter EO, priesthood and religious do not teach false doctrine and practice mixed with Word and Sacrament, they have nothing to worry about from name calling, nothing on earth can stop them. If they do, it is not love to say That's OK, no big deal, carry on.

Anonymous said...

@pastelder:Then nothing to worry about. Carry on!

scredsoxfan2 said...

Thank you for this pastor, great story!


I think you are entrenching yourself in a bad position, and I say this with all charity. It seems more and more to me that your anti-Catholic stance is rooted in YOURself. I hope that you do not truly feel what you wrote.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Luther insisted that they had the Mass and Baptism and that the were still church -- something he was not so sure of when it came to the radical reformers and their legacy...

Yes he did while at the same time considered the Roman papacy an abomination and the priesthood a corruption of what the New Testament considers Christian pastors to be.


scredsoxfan2 said...


again though, you just affirmed your own Pope or similar authority in Luther by trusting his judgment of what the church was and is supposed over what the "Roman Church," as you would call it, and the rest of Christianity understood it to be.

God Bless

Terry Maher said...

Well, hey, Chrisula, howzit goan?

It's all about me, eh? What a typical postconciliar "Catholic" response, and utterly atypically Catholic as usual.

Ad hominem is the usual resort, by which I mean not the conversational use of the term but the logical technical one, where some other factor about someone making a statement is used to dismiss examination of the statement itself.

In this case, it's just me and my reaction to and experience of the RCC, nothing to bother with really.

Thus does what was consistently and uniformly taught to me by the RCC -- not by "a" catechist or in "a" parish, but over many years in several parishes and schools (K through BA) and by secular and regular clergy alike -- become just me and my particular slant.

Lutherans, don't freak: secular clergy is those living in the age (saecula) rather than regular clergy living under a religious order's rule (regula).

As I tried to explain before, I did not reject Catholicism because I came to believe Lutheranism. I rejected postconciliar Catholicism because I believed Catholicism, which is not the same thing.

So yes, I quite believe the young man will waste his life in this decision, and sadly separate himself from life itself.

The irony is, tain't nuttin compared to what I would say were I still Catholic, which is, what a waste that he won't even promote Catholicism but the miserable parody of it I saw constructed before my eyes and ears and promulgated at Vatican II.

So he will be ordained to a "priesthood" that doesn't even exist, and trained in something that isn't even Catholic before the 1960s.

Anonymous said...


again though, you just affirmed your own Pope or similar authority in Luther by trusting his judgment of what the church was and is supposed over what the "Roman Church," as you would call it, and the rest of Christianity understood it to be.

The "rest of Christianity?" Excuse me? Since when do all the non-Roman liturgical churches acknowledge the bishop of Rome to be the pope? Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying here?

It has nothing to do with Luther's judgment. Being the able Augustinian Scripture scholar that he was he got it right from the horses's mouth, so zu sagen.

And, if I might make a small suggestion -- the sure mark of a Catholic convert is this: they always routinely end their posts with "God Bless." Don't give out His blessings lightly :)


scredsoxfan2 said...

Terry and Christine,

So you each get to define what Catholicism and the Church is? Then you rely on yourself...

And I do hope God Blesses you and brings you to true faith. I don't believe that either of you are or have turned from God intentionally in any way, but that you are searching for Him and Truth.

May God Bless You :) is that a better phrasing?

Terry Maher said...

Crickey mate, who "gets" to decide what, who relies on whom? -- the "Catholicism" and "Church" you speak of isn't even what existed under those names earlier in my lifetime.

Perhaps the poor bleeder who is turning from his life and life itself to waste it in the Roman Catholic priesthood will live long enough to see his "Catholicism" and "Church" promulgated out of existence.

The Roman Empire is gone, and the state church it defined and created will morph and morph again, as it did to slog on for hundreds of years as the state church of the Holy Roman Empire, to find some way to slog on now that that's gone too.