Convert finds home in the Catholic Church; enters seminary
Friday, Sep. 04, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY — Although he was baptized an Episcopalian and grew up Lutheran, Brian Schumacher has always felt drawn to the priesthood. As a Protestant, he investigated the ministry twice, but withdrew from the process both times.
“I kept getting cold feet and not wanting to do anything about it,” he said. “When I became Catholic, it became really real, tangible and I thought to myself, ‘This is a church that I can be a priest in.’”
Originally from North Carolina, Schumacher graduated from college with a degree in literature. During his studies he worked as a producer for a TV station there. After college, he continued in journalism and, having a desire to live in the west, went to work for Fox 13 in Salt Lake City in 2015. For a few years he was producer of the weekday 5 p.m. newscast, but he still felt something was lacking in his life. He joined the Episcopal Church, but didn’t find what he was looking for there.
“Something didn’t feel right about it,” he said. “I was already starting to believe that celibacy in the priesthood was a good thing, and the Episcopalians didn’t have that. When I came into Catholicism, I finally found that yes, this is a church I could be a priest in because I feel like they take it the most serious.”
As celibates, priests can completely focus on serving God and tending to the needs of the faithful, he said.
“It’s a way to give yourself completely to Christ and to your flock that you’re going to have,” Schumacher said. “With a family, you’re going to have a foot in both worlds. If you have a family, you need to give a lot of energy to them, as it should be; but it’s going to be hard to do that to your family and your flock at your church.”
In September 2017, when Schumacher walked into the Cathedral of the Madeleine to pray there for the first time, he “realized how truly present Christ is in that church,” he said.
He began RCIA and was baptized a member of the Church at Easter 2018. He inquired about becoming a priest, but diocesan policy is for converts to wait two years after their baptism before enrolling in the seminary. So, after his baptism, Schumacher lived in Park City, attending St. Mary of the Assumption Parish.
His family has been supportive throughout his spiritual journey.
“Every time I thought about seminary as a Protestant, they were definitely on board,” he said. “Then I became a Catholic and I wanted to go to seminary for that. That took a longer conversation, especially with celibacy. They were just worried about me being lonely, but they eventually came around … and they’re incredibly supportive now.”
Schumacher began in-person classes at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon on Aug. 25. He is the only student in his class from the Diocese of Salt Lake City. At 32, he is somewhat older than many of his classmates, but this doesn’t bother him.
“I’m very glad that I had a career first before I did this because it gave me perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said. “It allowed me to mature in ways I needed to mature before coming into seminary. I think I really am in the right place at the right time and God wanted me here now, and maybe he had to drag me through my 20s so I could learn patience and other virtues.”
At the seminary, Schumacher is beginning in pre-theology. Because he already has a college degree, his priestly formation likely will take seven years, including one set aside as a pastoral year.
“Education is really important to me,” he said. “More importantly, I hope I really perfect my relationship with Christ as much as I can so I can properly weather whatever storms I’m going to face in the priesthood, which I’m sure will be plenty. I want to make sure my relationship with Christ is firm and strong so that I can properly weather those and know that he is always there, and he will always have my back, so to speak, during those times.”
During his time at Mt. Angel, he also hopes to focus heavily on daily prayer, “holding myself to it every day and just really focusing on getting my prayer life up to snuff,” he said.
Once he completes his studies at the seminary, Schumacher will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Salt Lake City. He is most looking forward to celebrating Mass, “because you’re turning bread into God,” he said. “It’s one of the most intimate relationships you can have with Christ. The whole idea of my being a priest is for me the goal of perfecting my relationship with Christ and the priesthood is a way I can do that.”
Schumacher advises those who discern a call to the priesthood to fully explore that call.
“Don’t be scared, you might very well be turned away. Find out that it’s not for you,” he said. “But if you feel that call, go all in.”