Bishop Vásquez will ordain 1 priest in 2014
By Mary P. Walker
Bishop Joe Vásquez will ordain Deacon Craig DeYoung to the priesthood at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 7 at St. Helen Parish in Georgetown. Regarding his time preparing for this milestone, Deacon DeYoung said, “It has been an amazing pilgrimage, which has strengthened me in faith, hope and love by the gift of pure grace. Jesus has accompanied me and become my best friend and beloved.”
Deacon DeYoung is the son of David DeYoung and Dorothy Starr, and has four brothers and one sister. As an infant, he was baptized in an Episcopal church in Grand Haven, Mich. As a boy, he had some experience attending church, but God, faith and Christ were not important in his life.
When he was 12, his parents divorced, and the family struggled in the aftermath. Deacon De-Young lived with his father in Bruceville-Eddy. From there, they moved to Temple, where he attended a much larger high school. He explained that he had few friends, and characterized himself as an “agnostic theist.” He thought that some kind of god existed, but did not believe God was knowable or cared about him.
Deacon DeYoung began to discover God’s love during his college years. At Texas A&M’s freshman orientation camp, he developed a “crush” on a Baptist counselor, who invited him to attend an “event.” The event turned out to be a Bible study, and the counselor left him in the company of her boyfriend. Unhappy that he was at a Bible study and that the counselor had a boyfriend, he looked for an opportunity to leave. Jason Jesko, a Catholic student, took him aside and talked to him in a caring manner.
As a result, Deacon De-Young began attending a weekly Bible study led by Jesko. He enjoyed the friendships there and brought many thoughtful questions to the group. At the time, Deacon DeYoung was attending different churches, and Jesko suggested that he come to Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Center. Attending his first Mass by himself, he was lost and confused by the experience.
Jesko also invited his friend to Aggie Awakening, a Cursillo-based retreat for college students, which proved to be a turning point in Deacon DeYoung’s life. He left the retreat energized about Christianity.
“Jesus was not just 2,000 year old history, but is present in the here and now. I saw him working in and through all those who led and staffed the retreat,” he said.
Excited about developing a closer relationship to Christ, he continued to explore various churches. Eventually he got into the practice of attending Mass, and became involved in the programs of St. Mary. Because he attended daily Mass many students thought that he was Catholic. Yet, there were some of the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as our devotion to Mary, that he had trouble accepting.
Although he did not plan to join the Catholic Church, he wanted to learn more and began attending the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adult (RCIA) classes during his sophomore year. When he witnessed fellow students receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist, he realized that he too wanted the sacraments in his life. He asked Jesko to be his sponsor, and made his first confession the following Lent. He chose St. Jude, the patron of the impossible, as his confirmation saint, and made his profession of faith as a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2004.
Three months later, Deacon DeYoung received the sacrament of reconciliation from Franciscan Father Curt Lanzrath. An elderly priest joyful in his vocation, Father Lanzrath inspired many young men to consider the priesthood. Deacon DeYoung thought that if only he could be that happy and excited about life, he too would become a priest.
That thought opened the door to further discernment. He began attending dinners for young men considering the priesthood and went on the Seminary Sprint, a diocesan program in which men visit seminaries and religious orders. He was actually looking for evidence that God was not calling him to become a priest, and these activities were his way of showing God that he was giving the idea a fair try.
After two years, he decided not to pursue the priesthood, and concentrated on preparing for his career and dating. Yet, he kept meeting priests who were fulfilled in their vocation. Ready to graduate with a degree in industrial distribution, he had a job lined up. Although he was not particularly excited about the job, he felt that it was his next logical step in life.
The Virginia Tech shootings caused Deacon DeYoung to reflect on the sin and evil in the world. Late at night, he went into the church to pray. There he believes he received a powerful sense of Christ’s joy and hope, offered through the sacraments. Filled with gratitude, he wanted to dedicate his life to share with others the love and forgiveness he had found in the Catholic Church.
At that time, Father Mike Sis (now bishop of San Angelo) was the diocesan vocation director, and he encouraged him to apply to the seminary. After declining the job he had already accepted, Deacon DeYoung began his studies for the priesthood. As a priest, he especially looks forward to sharing the riches of the Mass and sacraments, and helping couples prepare for the sacrament of marriage.
Current vocations director Father Brian McMaster explained that although Deacon DeYoung is the only man being ordained a priest for the diocese this year, he expects five or six priests to be ordained annually in the coming years. In addition, this fall’s class of incoming seminarians is one of the largest ever.
“A year with one ordination reminds us to keep on praying for vocations and to invite men to consider the priesthood,” Father McMaster said.