by Dan Madden
ATCHISON — Calling on the model of St. John Vianney, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas challenged Brother Jeremy Heppler to preach the Gospel with sincerity and authenticity at the young monk’s diaconate ordination May 30 at St. Benedict’s Abbey here.
“Brother Jeremy, you are being ordained a deacon as we draw near to the year that Pope Benedict has dedicated to the priesthood,” the archbishop said. “Pope Benedict chose this year, in part, because it marks the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the curé of Ars, patron of priests.”
St. John, known as a great preacher who brought his people closer to Jesus and helped them grow in holiness, was not known for his intellect or oratorical skills, the archbishop noted.
“By all accounts, he was weak in both of these areas,” he said. “St. John Vianney was effective . . . because his life corresponded to his words.”
Brother Jeremy, a Wichita native who is currently studying for master’s degree in systematic theology at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., entered a one-year transitional diaconate and will seek ordination to the priesthood next year during the “Year of the Priest,” which began June 19.
“Within his call to the monastic life — the consecrated life — Brother Jeremy has discerned, with the assistance of this community, another call to share in the ordained priesthood of Jesus Christ, first serving the church as a deacon and, God willing, some day as a priest,” Archbishop Naumann said. “The setting apart by Jesus of the Twelve Apostles to lead and serve the community of disciples was the beginning of the ordained ministry. The Twelve were set apart for a special role of service to the rest of the community. Jesus instructed his apostles after breaking up a dispute among them about who was the most important: ‘Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.’”
A spirit of service must govern the attitude of the ordained minister, the archbishop stressed, a wonderful but challenging goal to which to aspire.
Brother Jeremy discovered religious life early. His aunt, Sister Maria Heppler, is a member of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison.
As a student at Benedictine College, Brother Jeremy began praying with the monks and “fell in love with the Rule of Benedict.”
“During my senior year, Brother John Peto began the College Oblates program,” he said. “On St. Benedict’s Day, 2001, I made final profession as an oblate of St. Benedict’s Abbey.”
During that year, a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Paul Parish in Olathe challenged him to consider the priesthood.
“That simple act began the process of a more serious consideration of the call to the priesthood and religious life,” said Brother Jeremy.
The next year he accepted a teaching position at Bishop Carroll High School in Wichita. By spring break though, he himself needed a break, so he traveled back to St. Benedict’s Abbey — not for a vocation retreat, but rather for some relaxation.
“To my surprise, this was when God called me to ‘come and see,’” he said. “By the end of the week, I had an application. In the fall of 2002, I came to the monastery. I had the wonderful blessing and support of my family and friends.”
Brother Jeremy worked for two years in the Benedictine College ministry office before entering the seminary.
“With this ordination to the diaconate, I pray that God will continue to give me the eagerness to truly seek him and do his work,” he said.