I was born in Berkeley, California, where my parents were living at the time. When I was three years old, they moved back to Missouri, where they are both from and where most of our extended family is. They settled in Hannibal, where I grew up. At that time, my father was a Buddhist and my mother a Catholic. When I was five years old, my brother was born.
For a lot of my childhood, we didn’t go to Mass very often. I didn’t go to Catholic school (or PSR very much) and didn’t know much about religion. My mother would go to Mass, but I think she found it hard to bring my brother and me because Dad was not a Christian. At one point, we started going to Mass with Mom and sometimes services at the Unitarian church or meditation sessions with Dad. I was a very skeptical and cynical child and didn’t take any of this very seriously.
When I made my first Communion at the age of ten, something changed. First, Mom insisted that I had to go to Mass every Sunday. This forced me, after some time, to start trying to figure out what this was all about. So, I started reading a little about Catholicism. I got more and more interested. Something related is that my mom has always been very active in the pro-life movement and has always stood up for the truth no matter what people think of her. She has a lot of integrity. My dad does, too, and he has always been a strong reader, always trying to learn more. Both my parents gave me an intense desire to know the truth, and when I felt this desire with regard to religion, everything changed. Before, I had dismissed religion as a silly idea, but once I began to study the Church, I realized that this is the truth.
Then, everything changed again. Besides just studying, I started praying the Rosary every day. Meditating upon the life of Jesus and Mary helped me to develop a relationship with them. The truth I was studying was not just a bunch of ideas. Rather, I was encountering God in person. Soon, I realized that the Mass is where this takes place par excellence. Religion is not about our search for God but rather is about the fact that God comes to meet us.
The next step was that I started thinking strongly that our Lord was inviting me to bring his presence to other people in a visible way through the sacraments. I started in the high school seminary when I was fourteen. When I was in college, my father became Catholic, and now my whole family is very strong in the faith. I was ordained a priest in 2010 and have served in five different parishes. I am amazed at what an adventure it is to be a diocesan priest. Every week, I get opportunities to do things I never thought I could do and to bring Jesus into the most joyful and most seemingly hopeless situations. Every day, I get to offer the sacrifice of Christ to the Father on behalf of my people. Being a priest can be challenging, but it is so worthwhile.
I thank God for my time in the seminary, where my knowledge of the faith and relationship with Christ grew greatly and where my vocation was nourished as I tried to respond to God’s invitation.
Father Dylan Schrader