OGDEN — Andy Smith is a seminarian at Mount Saint Mary’s in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He entered the seminary on Aug. 26, 2010 when the idea of becoming a priest "wasn’t going away," he said.
Although he’s from a different diocese, he made arrangements to spend the summer at Saint Joseph Parish in Ogden partly because when he was stationed at Hill Air Force Base in 2009, Father Ken Vialpando became his spiritual director.
Fr. Vialpando is pastor at St. Joseph Parish.
While at St. Joseph Parish this summer, Smith has been visiting people in nursing homes, going to McKay Dee Hospital, volunteering at the Crisis Pregnancy Center, visiting the incarcerated and helping with odds jobs around the parish. He will return to the seminary Aug. 6.
After being transferred to Utah in 2009, Smith visited Father Javier Virgen, associate vocations director in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, to receive a list of spiritual directors.
"Fr. Vialpando and I hit it off right away," said Smith. "Our personalities were similar, he had a military background and I liked his spirituality. So for the two years I was stationed here I met with him weekly and we discussed life, life in the seminary, what it was like to be a priest, and he directed me spiritually. That was a big help. I volunteered to teach some CCD classes at St. Joseph. While I was on base I also was in charge of the young adult ministry."
After being discharged from the Air Force, Smith entered the seminary, which he said was a big transition, although "looking back was absolutely the right choice," he said.
Smith grew up in Dayton, Ohio, attending Catholic schools, including the University of Dayton, which is run by the Marianists.
"While I was there, I entered the Air Force ROTC for the scholarship money because I come from a family of seven children," he said. "After the first year, I realized I liked the type of people, the mission and the discipline of the Air Force. I received a business management degree and I was involved in the extracurricular activities of both the Air Force and Army programs. I joined the fraternity and participated in a three-month Ranger challenge, which involved 11 team events such as a physical fitness test, land-navigation course and rifle marksmanship."
Smith graduated in 2005 and his first assignment was at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, five miles from his parent’s home. He was the program manager for small un-manned aircraft systems. He spent four years there, during which he returned to the University of Dayton for a Master of Business Administration degree.
"In February of 2007, while stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, I was at home in front of the computer and I had a message pop into my head that I was supposed to be a priest," Smith said. "I knew I didn’t come up with the thought on my own. From that point on for the next four years I discerned the idea because I could see myself being married with children, but I could also see myself as a priest. Even though I would date, the calling kept getting stronger."
Smith continued to discern the priesthood and in 2010 was deployed for five months to Qatar.
"While I was there I spent time with the Catholic chaplain on base," Smith said. "I learned that those who are deployed only attend Mass once a quarter, so I want to apply to be a military chaplain when I become a priest to help our service men and women," he said. "We’ll see what happens."