Wednesday, October 28, 2009
All Things Are Possible With God! Meet Christopher Klusman
Christopher Klusman, a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, WI, will be ordained to the priesthood in 2011, God willing. Christopher’s beaming, radiant smile seems to be without limit. Wherever he goes he exudes a joy for life and for God that will easily translate into an outstanding priest.
Christopher was deaf at birth. His early years of life were filled with the love and support of family. He has many happy memories of laughter and play with his parents, siblings and grandparents. He is a big fan of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. He enjoys playing classic Nintendo games, attending theatre and museums, travel and reading. But most of all, he loves and cherishes time spent with family and close friends. It’s easy to see that the love and confidence with which he was formed at home, has lead to his openness to listen to God’s voice when He spoke to Christopher’s heart.
“The first people that I told about my call to the priesthood were my parents. I can't think of how many sleepless nights I've endured, as I tried to come up with words that could break the news with great ease. It was as if I was trying to think of a perfect proposal for the woman of my dreams. I swear I came up with over 100 ways. When I broke it to my parents, ironically, it wasn't what I planned. It came straight from the heart, since I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me. My parents cried, but they were tears of joy. Later, when more people found out, they were like, "I'm not surprised. It is a great fit." I didn't expect that they felt that way. If I only knew, I wouldn't have put myself through such agony!”
On October 2nd, the Annual Rector’s Dinner was held at the Hyatt Hotel in Milwaukee. Christopher stood before a crowd of over 500 supporters of our St. Francis de Sales Seminary and shared his call story. The crowd held their breath in awe of Christopher’s beautiful call story and he put a smile on everyone’s face when he shared the particular story of how his mentor, Monsignor Glenn Nelson of the Diocese of Rockford, IL “popped the question,” that is, he asked Christopher, “Have you thought about the priesthood?” According to Christopher, “Monsignor Nelson is like a superhuman because he amazingly handles his many roles.” Along with Fr. Michael Depcik of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Monsignor Glenn Nelson has helped to form and shape Christopher’s understanding that “nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). Through their examples, Christopher has found that there are no obstacles through which God cannot break through to use us as He sees fit.
Life at St. Francis de Sales Seminary is very busy, not at all as Christopher had imagined it to be. His days are filled with prayer to be sure, but there is also much work involved in the training for the priesthood. A typical day usually includes: Morning Prayer at 7 am, Mass at 7:15 am, breakfast at 8 am, carpool to Sacred Heart School of Theology for a full day of classes in intellectual formation, one of the four pillars of formation for Seminarians, then back to St. Francis de Sales Seminary for Evening Prayer at 6 pm, and dinner at 6:30 pm. In addition to these activities, time needs to be made for homework, meetings, and chats with friends, classmates and faculty, jobs, exercise and errands. The life of a Seminarian also includes one day a week that focuses on the other three pillars of formation: human, pastoral and spiritual. For Christopher, one of the highlights of his time in the Seminary is theology 24/7!
Last summer he had the opportunity to spend some time in Boston learning the role of hospital chaplain. Although it was hard for him to be away from home for the whole summer, he knew it would be a great learning experience. He appreciated this experience because “I learned so much about suffering and how that is related to us being connected to Jesus’ suffering on the Cross. I can’t say enough how much people truly appreciate even one visit! It is what Jesus said, ‘For I was …ill and you cared for me.’ (Mt. 25:35-36).
Looking ahead to April 24, 2010, Christopher will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. He is optimistic about his vow of celibacy as an opportunity to be exclusive to not one person, but to all people. He hopes for the chance to minister at his home parish with the proclamation of the Gospel, giving homilies and baptizing infants during the summer of 2010.
From there, the next step will be ordination to the Priesthood in 2011! “How beautiful it would be to be Jesus’ vessel in which He acts through me! It overwhelms me to anticipate the humble moments when Jesus changes the bread and wine to His Body and Blood through me and forgives sins of others at confession through me.”
Regarding the specific challenges that being deaf may bring to the priesthood, Christopher says,
“I am still amazed to this day on how well I can communicate with the deaf and hearing communities. I feel the ability to do that comes from my family's faith in me and from God. It is truly a gift from God. Statistics found that the best lip-reader can only read up to about 30 percent, only because there are limited numbers of lip-shapes that can be made. Just try watching a TV show without any sound! Imagine that I can never turn the sound back on, ever! I've learned that communication is a two-way street where it helps if we both come half-way to try to make each other understood in a way that is respectful to each other. As for schooling, interpreters ensure that I receive 100%. That is important because then I can pass on what I've learned, especially through future homilies, for example. Everything I learned is not just for my own gain, but also for all the others' gain! In groups of 2 or more people, lip-reading becomes more challenging because it becomes like a game of "Hot Potato." Ears can track where auditory cues occur. Since my deafness doesn't pick much auditory cues, I would often have to look to who is talking next. I learned from my parish internship that meetings, like Parish Council, are accessible with interpreters. Gratefully, I am blessed with the ability to speak, which is unusual for a deaf person. I could do Mass as a presiding priest without an interpreter, but if I attend Mass, an interpreter makes it more accessible (only if the priest doesn't sign). In the future, there are several situations that can be done with an interpreter and several that do not necessitate an interpreter. But, there is one thing that will never change and that is that I will never have an interpreter during the Sacrament of Confession. The one exception that I have to make is that I won't be able to use the grill or divider, for I'll need to be able to see the person's face to lip-read (not to see who s/he is!). The most exciting thing about my working with the deaf and hearing communities in the future is that I hope to help bridge the two communities more deeply than before. Isn't that what Jesus calls us to do. . . to unify more of his members into the one and unified Body of Christ united to Him as the Head?”
Let’s all unite in prayer for Christopher as he works through his final years in Seminary, as well as keep all of the seminarians and those discerning a call to the Priesthood and religious life in our prayers. As for Christopher, he really does hear perfectly well; he heard the voice of God calling him to be a priest and he answered “yes”! In any language, that’s a beautiful conversation and a reminder that “all things are possible with God!”
(To learn more about Christopher and all of the fine seminarians studying at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, WI, visit http://www.thinkpriest.org/ )
This story can also be found at: A Vocation to be a Priest