Anticipating the adventure of pointing out God
Seminarian believes priests help people through peaks, valleys
Tenth in a monthly series about the Green Bay Diocese's seminarians
By Sarah Malcore
Matt Settle's road to the seminary has been one of discovery. His family moved often when he was a child, and they lived in several different states.
In 1986, Matt graduated high school from Salem, Ohio. He completed college in 1991 by earning his degree in math and science education. The following fall, he taught seventh grade math at Jack Benny Jr. High School in Waukegan, Illinois. Matt was a teacher until 1993 when he moved to West Virginia to work for Habitat for Humanity and served as a construction coordinator. In 1995, he moved to Wisconsin to be closer to his parents and two siblings. He worked as a carpenter for a year, and then as a mason for a refractory contractor.
The many changes in Matt's life caused him to wander away from the church.
"After my elementary school years when my favorite activities were fishing, serving at Mass, hunting, trapping and water-skiing, I never had considered priesthood a possibility," he said.
As Matt had been moving from job to job, he felt there was something missing. He had experimented with other religions, but there was still emptiness. When Matt returned to Wisconsin, he joined St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Waupaca, which he considers his home parish.
Matt never considered priesthood as a real possibility until age 29 or 30, but he had always maintained a close relationship with God,
"The funny thing was," Matt said with a smile, "that even during my 'non church years' I still always asked God what to do before any big decisions."
"I think that the calling for me was a process, but there were events along the way," he continued. "My last serious girlfriend suggested that I become a priest. My mom asked me about it a couple of times. When I joined St. Mary Magdalene, Fr. Jim Vennix (half jokingly) asked me if I had considered priesthood. All along I tried to fight the idea, but the same yearning for 'that something that was missing' which led me to join the parish in Waupaca turned into a search for 'who am I and why am I here.' That is what led me to explore the possibility of priesthood and to find there is a peace, joy, purpose and family that I had been searching for."
Matt started his pre-theology studies in fall 1999, and is currently in Theology I at Mundelein Seminary.
Matt recalled a childhood story of when he first recognized priesthood as a career option.
"As a child in elementary school, I helped my parents in the family sporting goods store," he explained. "Every Tuesday my parish pastor came into the store to purchase some fishing supplies. At that age, I thought 'being a priest would be a great job since they only have to work on Sundays.' Boy, I was in for a surprise."
Matt's family is very supportive and proud of him.
"I wasn't sure how my dad would feel, or that he would understand at first, but I knew he would support and stand beside me, and I have even caught him and my mom bragging about it," said Matt.
One roadblock was the idea of not having a wife and kids.
"Having a family has always been a central theme in my own personal identity and vision," he said. "When I was struggling with vocational discernment, I became more involved in my parish, especially in confirmation and religious education. As a result I was able to understand and 'catch a glimpse' of what kind of 'family' is possible for a priest. I have somewhat redefined what family is: not as intense, but larger and more inclusive."
When it comes to hobbies, Matt loves the outdoors. His favorite free time activities include scuba diving, water skiing, down hill or cross country skiing, fishing, hiking, or anything adventurous in nature. He also enjoys basketball some quiet time for reading, and following the Packers and baseball. When it comes to television, Matt likes to watch 'Touched by an Angel', or 'M.A.S.H.' For a favorite treat, Matt can be spotted at Scooper's in Waupaca enjoying a big Banana-Berry Crunch Sundae.
Discerning priesthood can be a difficult road admits Matt. He suggests not to go through it alone, and to take time to talk to a priest.
"More than anything, pray about it because a vocational call can come from many places, things or people; but in order to hear it and respond, a person needs to be in tune with the ultimate source, God," he said.
"People need to understand that a priest's job is praying and being with God's people," he added. "Men considering priesthood need to know what a great life it can be. There is so much joy, fun, and the powerful impact one can have in people's lives. A priest is with people through the peaks and valleys of their life pointing out 'there is God!'"
(Malcore works in the diocesan Vocations office.)
Who: Matt Settle.
What: First Year Theology Student.
Where: Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.
Background: Born in 1967.
Home Parish: St. Mary Magdalene in Waupaca.
Parents: Joan and Ken Settle. Ken works as a chemical engineer-refractory technician-mason-laborer-in charge of construction for the refractory company he started. Joan split time between being a homemaker, and working as an RN (most recently in nursing homes in Appleton).
E-mail: [email protected]
Interested: For more information on vocations to priesthood or religious life, phone Fr. Doug LeCaptain at (920)437-7531 or toll-free at 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8293, or by e-mail, [email protected]; or visit the vocations section of the diocesan web page.
To learn more about the diocese's other seminarians, please e-mail your
name and address to [email protected] or call (920)437-7531 or toll-free, 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8287, to receive a free book about all the seminarians.