by Joe Bollig
Discerning a vocation is a lot like looking through a camera lens. You can tell at a glance that something is definitely out there, but clarity is only achieved when the lens is gradually brought into focus.
Such was the case, anyway, for the priestly vocation of Barry Robert Clayton.
“The first time I thought about it was when my pastor, Father Bob Hasenkamp, during my first year of high school, invited me to a discernment retreat,” said Clayton.
The invitation came as a surprise, but the teen decided to accept anyway. He enjoyed the retreat, but certainly didn’t leave thinking the priesthood was for him. Little did he know at the time that this was merely his first look through the lens. Focus was to come later.
Clayton grew up in Olathe and Roeland Park. For the majority of his childhood, his family belonged to St. Pius X Parish in Mission. He is one of three children born to Mark Clayton and Christine Riscoe. He has a twin sister, Angie, and a younger brother, Matthew.
Like many Catholic kids, Clayton attended his parish elementary school, then went on to Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park. While there, the vocational lens continued to focus.
“Through high school, I had other discernment opportunities,” said Clayton. “The chaplains encouraged me to discern my vocation — Father Bill Bruning and Father Brian Schieber. At the end of my time at Miege, I had begun to think more seriously about the priesthood. But I still didn’t think I was ready.”
After graduating from Miege in 2000, Clayton entered Kansas State University to study electrical engineering, expecting to eventually get married and someday have family and a professional career.
But there, he got involved in Catholic campus ministry through the St. Isidore Catholic Student Center. Center chaplain Father Keith Weber gave the future priest both encouragement and support.
The final turning of the lens, however — the adjustment that brought his vocation into true focus — was a mission trip to Washington, D.C., where he worked with a student group in a food kitchen for the homeless.
“After three and a half years at KState, that call to the priesthood became stronger until I finally realized through prayer and discernment that God was leading me toward at least [the] seminary and learning more about the priesthood,” said Clayton.
Despite being so close to finishing his degree, Clayton transferred to Conception Seminary in 2004. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, specializing in math, in 2006.
“Although it was a difficult decision, I ended up going to seminary,” he said. “Being in seminary is a tremendous blessing, whether one is called to a priestly vocation, or just having a chance to grow close to God to see where he is leading.
“In my discerning, God continued to strengthen my call, and I grew in my appreciation of the priesthood and in my gratitude for him calling me to it.”
From there, Clayton went on to study at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He also did a pastoral internship for a year at St. Joseph Parish in Wentzville, Mo. Clayton concluded his years of seminary with a master’s of arts in theology and an master’s of divinity.
His decision to follow a priestly vocation has been confirmed by others.
“Everyone has, generally, been supportive,” he said. “There are some, perhaps, who don’t know the faith very well or didn’t understand, but those of the Catholic faith have certainly been supportive of me. It’s an unusual path in this day and age.”
Clayton was ordained a deacon on May 22, 2010, at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park and will be ordained to the priesthood at 10:30 a.m. on May 28 at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa.
The former engineering student believes he will bring to the priesthood the gifts of being a good listener and a love of the sacraments. He looks forward, especially, to celebrating the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
Having gone through the process of discerning his own vocation leads him to offer some advice for those whose lens is still “fuzzy.”
“I would encourage them to try to get involved with faith activities and ministries that are available in your parish or the archdiocese,” he said, “because getting involved in these activities can help you grow in faith and build friendships in faith to support you in a more concerted way to what God might be calling you to do.”
Last movie seen: “There Be Dragons”
Favorite TV show: Royals baseball
Favorite musical group/person: Matt Maher
My most notable encounter with the famous/infamous: Pope Benedict XVI from a distance in Germany and Australia at World Youth Day and in New York on his papal visit to the United States
The most inspirational Christian I’ve met: Those who faithfully go about their days serving God in the ordinary duties of their life Books now reading: “Verbum Domini”; “In Conversation with God”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite childhood toy: Bike
Favorite place in the whole world: Rome or Kansas!
Dream vacation: Rome or Ireland or Florida
Worst job I’ve ever had: Grocery store bagger Best job I’ve ever had: Grocery store cashier
Hobbies/Things I like to do: Follow the Royals, run, read, listen to music
If I were sent on a difficult missionary journey, the saint I’d take with me would be: St. Patrick
If I had a church history time machine, I’d: go to the Middle Ages and then go all the way back to the time of the apostles with Jesus!
Best advice I’ve received: “Remain devoted to the Holy Trinity, keep the Blessed Mother close, rely on God’s providence, and persevere.” (Msgr. Griesedieck)
Qualities I admire in priests I know: Being faithful and enjoying life
My advice for someone seeking their vocation: Be open in prayer and discernment to what God might be leading you toward. Finding his will for you — and walking in this — is where you will find peace and happiness, though not without sacrifice. It is in the vocation to which God calls you that you can make a gift of yourself. “Man truly finds himself through a sincere gift of self” (“Gaudium et Spes,” no. 24).
What I’m looking forward to as a priest: Celebrating the sacraments, especially the sacrament of penance, and, most especially, the sacrament of the holy Eucharist for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.