Introducing the new Director of Vocations

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Page 8 -- Oligschlaeger_P GregoryAfter John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God, John
the Evangelist and Andrew went to Jesus and asked Him, “Where are You
staying?” (John 1:39)

The Lord replied, “Come and see!” — as if to say, “Spend some time
with Me and find out for yourself what it means to follow Me.”

Numerous other times, Jesus told His friends, “Do not be afraid.”

Father Greg Oligschlaeger believes both messages are essential for
anyone who would promote vocations in the Church.

Bishop John R. Gaydos has appointed Fr. Oligschlaeger, who is
currently pastor of St. Joseph parish in Martinsburg and Church of the
Resurrection parish in Wellsville, to be the diocese’s new director of
vocations.

He will live near the Cathedral of St. Joseph and work in the Alphonse
J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center in Jefferson City.

He succeeds Father Joseph S. Corel, who has been appointed vicar
general for the diocese and moderator of the curia after nine years as
vocation director.

Both assignments take effect July 1.

Fr. Oligschlaeger said his new assignment has three parts:

•providing general education to all the people in the diocese,
especially families, about the need for priests and religious in the
Church, and the blessings that come to people who answer the call to
the priestly or religious life;

•meeting with and listening to people in every parish, as well as
their pastors, about whom they believe God might be calling to be
priests, sisters or brothers;

•helping men discern whether they’d like to try the seminary, guiding
them through the application process, and following them throughout
their seminary formation.

“I’m really excited about getting to meet people all over the diocese
and working with men in their discernment and following them through
the seminary and helping them come to an understanding of what a
priestly vocation is,” said Fr. Oligschlaeger.

His 22 years of priestly experience have included 16 years in parish
work and six as an instructor and dean of students at the former St.
Thomas Aquinas Seminary high school in Hannibal.

His parish assignments helped immerse him in the joy of the Priesthood
as well as a full spectrum of priestly ministries.

His time at the seminary helped infuse him with “a love for helping
people discover their vocation and where God is calling them in life,”
he said.

Close to home

Fr. Oligschlaeger was born in Boonville and grew up in Jefferson City.

He attended St. Joseph Cathedral School; St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary;
the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio; and Kenrick
Seminary in St. Louis.

He majored in psychology at the Josephinum and studied theology at
Kenrick and Canon law at The Catholic University of America in
Washington, D.C.

Prior to priestly ordination, he worked as a chaplain at St. Mary’s
Health Center in Jefferson City and as a counselor at Boys Town in St.
James.

He served as an acolyte intern at Mary Immaculate parish in
Kirksville, St. Rose of Lima parish in Novinger and the Kirksville
Newman Center during the summer of 1991.

As a transitional deacon, he assisted the pastor of Our Lady of
Lourdes parish in Columbia.

He has served as associate pastor of St. Peter parish in Jefferson
City, pastor of St. Peter parish in Fulton and St. Jude Thaddeus
parish in Mokane.

He has been pastor of St. Joseph parish in Martinsburg and Church of
the Resurrection parish in Wellsville since 2007.

His parents, Paul and Margaret Oligschlaeger, are members of Cathedral
of St. Joseph parish.

Never alone

Fr. Oligschlaeger was surprised when Bishop Gaydos asked him to be the
diocese’s next vocation director.

“He said my experience of 22 years in our diocese would be of
benefit,” the priest stated. “He said that I have a varied interest in
lots of things and may be able to connect with some of the men
applying — and he hopes that we might have a dinner or two using my
cooking skills to help get people involved.”

The bishop also pointed to Fr. Oligschlaeger’s work at St. Thomas Seminary.

Like Fr. Corel and Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki before him, Fr.
Oligschlaeger knows that promoting vocations is hard work and must be
done in cooperation with the whole local Church.

Specifically, he also pointed to the abundance of prayers and legwork
from the parish vocation committees.

“What they do is incredibly important,” he said.

Priests of the diocese help by recognizing men and women in their
parishes who have gifts and interests that might point to a priestly
or religious calling.

Fr. Oligschlaeger also plans to forge closer working relationships
with the directors of Catholic Newman Centers at colleges in the
diocese, as well as to principals of the diocese’s 37 Catholic grade
schools and three Catholic high schools.

“I certainly want to meet with them regularly and remind them of the
powerful role they can have in forming people and helping them
understand the need for priestly and religious vocations in the
Church, and the joy those vocations can bring to people who pursue
them,” he said.

All of this will be immersed in his own personal witness of joy-filled
Priesthood.

“I think it’s especially important for parents to see that there are
certainly sacrifices that come with being a priest, but there are so
many more abundant blessings,” he said. “There’s hardly ever a day
that I feel alone in the Priesthood or that the Priesthood wasn’t a
good choice for me.”

He knows it’s often harder to convince parents than their children
that God may be calling them to be a priest, a brother or a sister.

“Helping your child discern a vocation to Priesthood or religious life
is preparing them for a life for service, a life where they will be
loved and revered by parishioners, a life that draws the priest’s
family into the lives of all the parishioners and helps us all to see
what a blessing it is,” he stated.

From his experience at St. Thomas Seminary, he knows how much of a
privilege it is to accompany someone on such a deep and spiritually
rewarding journey as vocation discernment.

He noted that not every man who enters the seminary is being called to
be a priest.

“But for those who are not being called, you help form them into good
Catholic men to live their lives in faith through whatever vocation
God is calling them to,” said Fr. Oligschlaeger. “They become men who
are active in their parishes and communities.”

“Tied to everything”

Fr. Oligschlaeger believes Fr. Corel has done an exceptional job,
especially of “promoting the promotion of vocations. “

“I have always appreciated his understanding of the need for the
cooperation of pastors and parishioners in cultivating vocations,”
said Fr. Oligschlaeger. “A major component of his ministry has been to
priests. Part of the wisdom he has given the diocese is a good
understanding of what priests and pastors need.”

For these past nine years, people have recognized in Fr. Corel a deep
love for God and His people, and that helped convince men of all ages
to consider the Priesthood, said Fr. Oligschlaeger.

“Fr. Joe is also great about understanding that this is not a
one-person job,” said Fr. Oligschlaeger. “It needs to be a
collaboration of the whole Church.”

That’s why he worked so closely with youth, pro-life and family-life ministries.

“It’s essential,” said Fr. Oligschlaeger. “Vocations work needs to be
tied into everything else we do. It cannot stand alone.”

Fr. Oligschlaeger pointed out that every work of the Church begins
with and is sustained by prayer.

He asks the people of the diocese to keep praying for God’s will to
call faithful people from among them and fill them with the wisdom,
courage, character and virtue to serve His people as priests and
religious.

“The world desperately needs them,” he said.

By Jay Nies