It wasn’t something all of his college fraternity brothers could understand. Christopher Brashears, 33, said his decision to join the Roman Catholic priesthood puzzled some of his buddies at Oklahoma State University when he told them his plans.
“It was a mixed bag, because some of them understood. Other guys said, ‘Why? Why would you want to do that? You won’t have a family. It will be all the time God, God, God,’” Brashears said.
The Weatherford native is one of five men who will be ordained into the priesthood on Saturday at an Archdiocese of Oklahoma City ceremony at Our Lady’s Cathedral.
Local Catholic leaders said excitement surrounding the event has reached new levels because of the number of men embarking on the spiritual journey together.
“The Five,” as they’ve been informally dubbed, represent an upward trend that local Roman Catholic leaders have prayed for.
They are: Brashears, Carson Krittenbrink, Timothy F. Ruckel, Cristobal de Loera and Linh N. Bui.
While some people on the outside looking in might see them as only a handful, the quintet of seminarians will be a veritable floodgate of new priests when compared with the one or two seminarians that have been ordained each year by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in the last decade or so.
At least one recent year — 2012 — the archdiocese had no one to ordain, in keeping with what was then a national downward trend in priestly ordinations.
No one is more thrilled about the change on the local horizon than the Rev. Stephen Hamilton, head of the archdiocese’s vocations office and pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church in Edmond. He said the archdiocese hasn’t ordained this many men at one time since six were ordained in 1991.
“It was probably two or three years ago that we looked ahead and realized that we had several coming up,” Hamilton said.
“We said, ‘Wow! We’ve got five! This is great!’”
And better yet, he said, is the fact that the five look to be the start of an upsurge in new priests in the archdiocese. Hamilton said three seminarians are in the “priestly pipeline” to be ordained next year.
Hamilton, 41, said several issues could be keeping men from pursuing the Catholic priesthood.
He said today’s culture, with its pervasive message that money, fame, power and influence are the attributes of success, is the very opposite of what the priesthood stands for.
“It can be countercultural to get a man to consider it,” Hamilton said.
Also, he said, some men have family and friends who discourage them from the priesthood. Many also may feel some uncertainty, and perhaps some self-doubt, about taking such a step, he said.
Hamilton said the priest sex abuse scandal that erupted last decade in America could be another factor in keeping men away from the priesthood.
The last challenge, in Hamilton’s way of thinking, is the requirement of celibacy.
He said that although some might think it is perhaps the biggest obstacle standing between men and the Catholic priesthood, it doesn’t appear to be as much of an issue as people think.
The reasons “always remain a mystery” why men decide to become priests, he added.
The priest said he’s not sure why more men, particularly in Oklahoma, are heeding the Lord’s call to the priesthood.
“God always calls, but the individual factor is the person has to respond to the call,” Hamilton said.
Responding to God’s voice
Krittenbrink, 30, a Kingfisher native, said all priests have a different answer about why they joined the priesthood, because they are individuals with different backgrounds, personalities and circumstances.
“If you get 100 different priests in the room, you’ll get 100 different stories,” he said.
One thing that unites those who decide to become priests is a love for God, he said.
Krittenbrink said he rejected the idea of joining the priesthood initially.
“I dug my heels in and said, ‘Nope, I have my own plans,’” he said, laughing.
Krittenbrink said he had planned to become an engineer or an attorney. He said it took him 10 years to discern that he wanted to answer the Lord’s call. At one point, he even entered the seminary only to leave and return later, he said.
“We all want to feel like we run our own lives, right?” he said.
Change of plans
Brashears said he, too, was not planning to become a priest. After graduating from high school and college, he taught English in Japan for a few years and wanted to become a military cultural liasion.
Ultimately, he decided he would take the faith journey that the Lord was asking him to make.
“You pray about it, but at a certain moment, it takes faith,” he said.
Did either seminarian Brashears or Krittenbrink think about what it would mean not to have a wife and children?
Krittenbrink said he certainly thought about it, but he is sure that he is pursuing the life purpose that God has called him to.
“There’s a reason that God said be fruitful and multiply, and that’s a good thing, but also, it’s good to commit yourself completely to Christ,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said seating capacity for Saturday’s ordination ceremony has reached maximum capacity because of the number of expected guests. The ceremony will be live streamed via Christ the King Catholic Church’s website at www.ckokc.org/live-streaming.