Diocese gets new vocation director

By Editor

Fr. Schuster takes over position held for 5 years by Fr. Tom Long

ALLOUEZ — If you are not familiar with Fr. Dan Schuster, he’s hoping to change that. On Aug. 1, he will officially become the new vocation director for the Diocese of Green Bay, succeeding Fr. Tom Long, who was appointed the new diocesan vicar for ministers.

“Vocation director still isn’t a household name,” said Fr. Schuster. “Some people in the parishes still look at you and wonder what you do. I want that to be more of a household term. Some say (the vocation director) is kind of like a military recruiter, except the people I’m trying to motivate have a call from God.”

Preaching about vocations will be among Fr. Schuster’s new duties. Unlike Fr. Long, who served on weekends at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Newton, Fr. Schuster will travel to parishes throughout the diocese. Fr. Quinn Mann, associate vocation director, will also offer weekend vocational promotion when his duties as spiritual director of Catholic Youth Expeditions (CYE) allow.

“There are a number of components of this position that I would put into different categories,” said Fr. Schuster. “Traveling, preaching and promotion of vocations in general are one. The second is working with the seminarians in formation. Entrance to the seminaries is a whole separate part of this. Xavier House is the other component, meanwhile maintaining connections with the other vocation arms of the church — the Serra Clubs, Knights of Columbus and CYE.”

Fr. Schuster will live at Xavier House in De Pere, which currently has openings for young men in college, working or serving as volunteers, who want to live in community and discern the possibility of the priesthood. Xavier House was founded by Fr. Long, who served as vocation director for five years. Fr. Schuster said he plans to continue the successful programs started by his predecessors.

“We want to keep building on the great things, all the way back to my days with Fr. Doug LeCaptain (former vocation director), who was very instrumental in helping me discern,” said Fr. Schuster. “Fr. Tom kept building it, and I don’t want to be the one to see anything change on that front. I want to ride this wave the Holy Spirit has given us, that culture of vocations.”

“The programs are nice to have, but it’s really about personal relationships with young people,” said Fr. Long. “That’s where I think Fr. Schuster will bring his gifts, personality and prayer, to those relationships.”

Fr. Long added that, as a seminarian, Fr. Schuster extensively promoted vocations by speaking at schools and arranging visits by other seminarians, so he wasn’t surprised by the appointment.

The diocese currently has 25 seminarians. Bishop David Ricken would like to see 40 by 2012, said Fr. Schuster. The increased number calls for more financing to support the needs of the seminarians, including education costs and insurance.

“Probably, within two or three years, we will have to get creative and continue to ask, ‘How can we sustain and finance this discernment and seminary experience?'” said Fr. Schuster. “The annual seminarian collection in August is very helpful, but it doesn’t meet the yearly expenses.”

Fr. Long, who succeeds Fr. Paul Demuth as vicar for ministers, will serve as a resource for Fr. Schuster. His new appointment was unexpected. Fr. Long said that he thought he would be vocation director two more years and then return to parish ministry.

“It makes sense for me to move from what I was doing to working more with the priests,” he said. “It’s somewhat similar. I do look forward very much to working with Fr. Schuster. I think he is going to be great at it. I also think it provides some good continuity between the seminarians and priests. I’m a better priest because of the years as vocation director, because of the time thinking and praying about my priesthood and sharing that as I talk to people about being a priest.”

Fr. Long will continue as sacramental minister in Newton and as the Catholic chaplain at UW-Green Bay. One of his goals in his new position is developing ongoing formation for priests.

“The challenge is to help priests to be healthy, holy priests, and to help parish directors in their role,” he said. “We continue to have more and more parish directors and we need to help parishes to understand what their role is and to support them. One of the nice things about the diocesan ministry formation department is we are all involved in formation of lay ministry and deacons and seminarians.”

Fr. Long is also involved in parish planning with Mark Mogilka, diocesan director of Stewardship and Pastoral Services, and Fr. John Becker, chair of the priest personnel board.

“It’s been very helpful for me in this role to have been with Fr. Demuth (now pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay),” said Fr. Long. “I’ve learned a lot from him the last number of years. He’s been a real good mentor to me.

“I will miss being vocation director,” he added. “I will miss the seminarians and all the good people involved in supporting vocations.”

Fr. Schuster said he will miss the people of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, where he has served as an associate pastor since his ordination to the priesthood in 2008.

“It’s going to be hard to leave there,” he said. “You really fall in love with the parish as a family and it forms you. It’s been a very good collaborative team that’s allowed me as an associate pastor to take on good leadership responsibilities and to offer my own gifts and talents in certain areas of spirituality and with the RCIA.”

He also had opportunities to serve in youth ministry in Manitowoc. Fr. Schuster said that he feels connected to the young people in the church, helping them in their discernment. Technology is helpful with that connection.

“I use Facebook, I’m always texting and I have an HTC Hero (smartphone), which keeps me on the cutting edge of technology of everything,” he said. “It’s a means to further conversation. The Second Vatican Council asked us to use the best the media has to offer for evangelization.”

Fr. Schuster follows a similar path to Bishop Ricken, who became a vocation director after serving as an associate pastor. What advice did the bishop offer?

“He told me one time, ‘Hang on for the ride,'” said Fr. Schuster. “I know I will be putting on a lot of miles. I take this up to be very missionary.”

For more information on vocations to the priesthood, contact Fr. Schuster at (920) 272-8293, e-mail: father [email protected] or visit www.gbdioc.org./vocations.