Mixed emotions were apparent this past Sunday in the sanctuary of St. Leo's Catholic Church in Minot. At the end of Mass the Rev. Austin Vetter, who had officiated at the Mass, asked the congregation to be seated for a few announcements.
The Rev. Justin Waltz and Rev. Christopher Kadrmas had joined Vetter in the sanctuary. This wasn't the norm for announcements.
The announcements: Waltz was being released from his position as chaplain at Bishop Ryan; Kadrmas would be moving to Mandan, where he will be parochial vicar of Spirit of Life Church and of St. Martin Church in Huff and St. Anthony Church in St. Anthony; and Vetter will be leaving St. Leo's at the end of May to serve a four-year appointment as head spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City. The final announcement again pertained to Waltz; he will be pastor of St. Leo's, effective at noon on June 1.
The Rev. Austin Vetter will begin his assignment as head spiritual director for the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City State, urope,
in August. The statue to Vetter’s right is of the Infant of Prague.
The appointment of Vetter to the Pontifical North American College, which is home to roughly 250 seminarians, as well as numerous faculty members and graduate students from the United States, Canada and Australia, is significant.
There are four pillars to the formation program at the college: human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual.
As head spiritual director, Vetter will be director of spiritual formation and he will oversee the spiritual pillar of the college program, which is designed to foster an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and clarity in one's vocation. He will also assist in the seminarian's growth in daily prayer to develop an intimate union with God leading to a healthy self-respect and love, and the knowledge and living out of God's will and a generous service of others that marks the life of a priest.
"As head spiritual director I will be making sure that each seminarian is having that personal encounter with the risen Christ and developing a personal relationship, a companionship, between Christ and himself. It's to integrate the whole person. The spiritual formation then is the internal life, the internal form." Vetter said.
"That's what a seminary is," Vetter added. "It's like Christ himself calling the apostles to be with him for three and a half years of public ministry. That's the model of what the seminary is, that these young men are going away with Christ for an intensive walking along the way with him and learning from him through human, pastoral, intellectual and spiritual formation."
Vetter said he was humbled and very surprised by the appointment. He also acknowledged having mixed feelings of joy in being able to say "yes" to God and sadness in having to leave the parish of St. Leo's after only four years. There's also sadness in leaving his family and friends behind and having to say goodbye to them.
"The deep sense of confidence in God's goodness in my life has been rewarding," Vetter said. "Being able to say 'yes' has always borne great fruit in my life."
As Vetter prepares to leave Minot for his new appointment, Waltz is doing the same for his transition in Minot.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to serve the congregation of St. Leo's as their pastor," Waltz said. "First off, I think in the history of St. Leo's this is a very historic time. It's rare that you would ever have the outgoing pastor with the incoming pastor, not only living in the same rectory, but also at the installation Mass saying good-bye and farewell at the same time. Father Vetter has been an amazing 'spiritual father;' he actually is responsible for my vocation to the priesthood having been my chaplain and my formation as a young priest," he added.
"Being a chaplain these past four years has been a great blessing. Chaplaincies do not last forever; there is a natural progression to the next step. I am very pleased and excited to be staying in the community. Many of my former students are now members of St. Leo's Parish," Waltz said.
With excitement in his voice, Waltz added that the next natural progression in his priesthood is to be the pastor or "shepherd" of the adult population of Minot. He believes the past four years as chaplain at Bishop Ryan have prepared him for the assignment to be pastor of St. Leo's Church. "I look forward to working with the adults and their spirituality," Waltz said.
The Rev. Mr. Jadyn Nelson, who will be ordained a priest in May, has been appointed parochial vicar of St. Leo's. He will also serve as chaplain/instructor at Bishop Ryan High School.