Answering God’s call to the Priesthood

Published 3:04 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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Brian Klein will be ordained a priest on June 8 in Winona. Provided

By Betsy Hermanson, South Central News

Brian Klein was in eighth grade at St. Casimir School in Wells when he first felt an unusual nudge. He said Father Eugene Stenzel had asked if anyone in the class thought God might be calling them to the priesthood or religious life. He thought about it a bit, and felt that nudge.

“And so I raised my hand,” he said.

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Born and raised in Wells, now Deacon Klein is the son of Tim and Beverly Klein. He attended St. Casimir School from kindergarten through grade eight and then attended United South Central High School, and graduated in 2012. Throughout his high school years, Klein said he felt a few more nudges, but, busy with his studies and track and cross country, he pushed them aside. At that time, in his own heart Klein said he was always striving, trying harder, aiming for perfection.

After high school, he was off to St. Olaf College in Northfield, where he again ran cross country and track. He felt he was drifting away from his faith (which is not uncommon for young college students). But even as he drifted, Klein said he noticed some of his friends who seemed to have a peace that he did not have.

As it turned out, they were practicing Christians.

Then a priest handed him a book called “To Save a Thousand Souls,” by Brett A. Brannen. It was a guide for anyone who was considering the priesthood.

Another nudge.

While Klein knew he wanted to serve people in some way, he still had the idea that his studies and his running were geared to that illusion of perfectionism, he noted. Then he had an opportunity to spend a summer serving at a hospitality center for the homeless in Phoenix.

While he found joy in serving others, he realized he could not do it alone. Klein said God opened his eyes and heart to the fact that a priest is more than one who gives nice things to people, more than a super social worker. God gave him the knowledge that he needed God’s help; a priest cannot do it on his own.

Another nudge.

Several more nudges followed as Klein finished his final year at St. Olaf College. After graduating, he entered the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona to see where God would lead him.

“I felt a tremendous experience of growing with God and a deep desire to serve as a priest,” he said.

He was learning to grow in prayer and also coming to know more of himself — both strengths and weaknesses.

“I still had that perfectionism in my heart, constantly striving — in running and in life.” But that perfectionism crowded his heart he said, “so I was not free to receive God’s love, the foundation of any vocation.”

He stepped away and took a year off, working as a credit analyst in St. Cloud.

“I loved the work and the community, but it became clear that was not God’s will,” he said. “As I received God’s healing little by little in my perfectionism, there was more and more joy at the idea of becoming a priest and sharing God’s healing love with others.”

Klein re-entered the seminary and is graduating this spring. He will be ordained a priest this year at the Basilica of St. Stanislaus in Winona on Saturday, June 8. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m.

The following day, on Sunday, June 9, Klein will celebrate his first Mass at St. Casimir Catholic Church in Wells, beginning at 10 a.m. He would like to invite everyone to attend, saying it was the whole community who helped him on his journey of faith.

In his spare time, Klein’s favorite activities include long distance running, enjoying nature, especially in the Minnesota state parks, where one can enjoy God’s creation. He enjoys reading, playing cards like cribbage and 500, time with family and friends — quality time and conversations.

Klein says the most transformative thing in his life is his life of prayer. He likens his talking with God to the image of a marriage, saying it is impossible to fall in love with someone if you don’t talk to them. God is a trusted friend, he said, and friends speak often to each other. Because of his spending increasing time in prayer, he said little by little he’s learning how to respond to anxiety, uncertainty and even anger with joy, hope and peace.

“It’s a journey I’m still on, but God is patient with me!” he said.

He tells the story of Mother Teresa, who was working with her fellow Sisters during a devastating time in the world. One of the sisters asked if they could reduce their time of prayer to get all the work done. Mother Teresa replied that when you are busy, you must pray even more.

Klein quoted Psalm 62:1 as his favorite Bible verse: “In God alone is my soul at rest.”

He said, “We seek rest in different things many of which are gifts from God. But the ultimate rest is with God alone.”

Somewhere in the Minnesota Diocese of Winona-Rochester, there is a parish needing a priest. With God’s nudging, St. Casimir Catholic Church, St. Casimir School, the community of Wells, USC High School, St. Olaf College, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary have all played a part in producing a young man who is willing and wanting to serve God wherever and in whatever way God chooses.

Everyone is invited to attend Klein’s first Mass at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 9, at St Casimir’s Church in Wells.

Reception to follow in the church hall.