“We grew up very low middle class, but the one thing our parents did was find a way to get us to Catholic grade school,” said Prickette. “They drilled in our head to go to church on Sunday. We prayed the rosary a lot in the evenings. I can remember being called in from playing all the time to pray the rosary. When you are 9 years old, you are thinking, ‘What are we doing here?’
“When they passed away, I had some bitterness about God,” he added. “Why would God do this to me? What’s happened over time is that the faith they instilled in us gives me security to know that they are with God. My hope is that God will open a little window of heaven on ordination day so they can watch, so they can be there.”
The late Fr. Mike O’Rourke will also be in his thoughts. Fr. O’Rourke, longtime pastor at St. Mary Parish, Appleton, died in 2010, while Prickette was in formation.
“He was very supportive of everything I was doing,” said Prickette. “His passing was very difficult. I struggled a lot with that. My spiritual director, (Norbertine) Fr. Tim Shillcox really helped me through that period. I know (Fr. O’Rourke) will be there. He was always so forgiving. He told me, ‘If this doesn’t work out for you, we won’t love you any less.’”
The insurance business brought Prickette to the Fox Valley where he met his wife, Mary, a Kimberly native, on a blind date. They have two sons, Ryan, a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and Tyler, a sophomore at Carthage College in Kenosha. The brothers helped Xavier High School win the 2008 WIAA Division 2 state boys golf championship.
“That will always be a highlight for them,” said Prickette. “That was a wonderful thing to see them win together. They are typical brothers right now with their own lives. I’m sure as time goes on they will come together again. My only prayer is they keep their faith. As long as they know that they have God in their life, we will consider ourselves successful.”
The family joined St. Mary Parish when Ryan, who plays golf for the Golden Eagles on scholarship, was entering kindergarten. Prickette has been active in the parish as a catechist, extraordinary minister of holy Communion, lector and usher. Even though he didn’t recognize it at the time, he first experienced the call to the diaconate nine years ago.
“I couldn’t sleep at night,” he said. “I remember telling my wife, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but something is up. I think we need to talk to someone at the diocese.’”
The diaconate wasn’t a fit at the time, but the desire to expand his ministry continued. Pickette enrolled in graduate courses at St. Norbert College in De Pere. He met with Tony Pichler, diocesan director of what is now the Emmaus Formation Program, about a lay ministry path. Pichler told him that he belonged in the diaconate program so the process started with Mary’s support.
Deacon Gerry Schraufnagel of St. Mary, who has served as a mentor to Prickette, got him involved in Communion services at nursing homes. Prickette initially didn’t like the ministry.
“I thought the people shouldn’t be there,” he said. “Why wouldn’t God take them? What I’ve grown to find out is those people teach me more about life and death than what I could learn from anyone else. I can’t wait to go there now. Those people are just so special to me.”
Prickette will do some preaching as a deacon and help with sacramental ministry, especially weddings. He said that he has had some doubts on his journey to the diaconate, but credits Fr. Shillcox for his encouragement.
“He’s not my spiritual director anymore, he’s probably one of my best friends,” said Prickette. “We got together about two weeks ago and he said, ‘You know you have no idea how much you’ve grown in the last five years.’ Whenever I would voice concerns to him, he would have me list the things that were concerning me and say, ‘Now what don’t you understand? This is where God wants you.’”
Prickette also points to the guidance of Capuchin Fr. Jim Leary, pastor at St. Mary, and the entire staff and the kindness of his employer, McClone Insurance Group. He will assist at his first Mass at his home church at 4:30 p.m. on May 19. Tyler will cantor at the Mass.
“I love this parish and the people here,” said Prickette. “To be able to serve them in this capacity is more humbling than anything else I can imagine.”