Planting seeds

New vocation director hopes to ‘create a culture of vocations’.


by Jessica Langdon
jessica.langdon@theleaven.org 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Before he embarked on his path to the priesthood, Father Scott Wallisch worked for four years as a structural engineer.

Father Wallisch, who earned degrees in engineering and architecture from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, will still be doing some engineering of sorts in a new role he’s taking on.

Only now, he’s helping to design futures — the futures of people who are deciding whether they are called to a religious vocation.

Father Wallisch took the reins in July as archdiocesan vocation director.

He left his previous position as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, but will continue as chaplain at St. James Academy in Lenexa.

Father Wallisch will spend the coming months making connections, becoming a familiar face, and letting people know that if they are thinking about a religious vocation, they can contact him.

“One of the exciting things is that you get to try to plug into many different youth events, high school events, college events, young adult events, in order to — if nothing else — remind people within those various places that they should be thinking about their vocation,” he said.

Creating ‘a culture of vocations’

When men express interest in becoming priests, he’ll walk with them in their journey, helping them to discern their call, work through the application process, and make the transition into the seminary.

He has also set his sights on “continuing to create a culture of vocations, where you’re encouraging people to pray for vocations, encouraging people to be looking within their families, among their friends, in their parish,” he said.

“It’ll rarely start with me,” he added.

He hopes people will have the courage to plant seeds in people’s minds when they see potential, and hopes his fellow priests will be among his best recruiters.

Father Wallisch knew even as a child, growing up the youngest of seven boys and one girl in St. Louis, that the priesthood was a possibility for him. But he didn’t pursue the idea for many years.

In college, he was inspired by Msgr. Vince Krische, then-director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center.
Monsignor Krische really embodied for him the idea that a priest is married to the church, he said.

“You could just tell he would die for her. He loved her. He talked about her in his homilies all the time,” said Father Wallisch. “He defended her teachings and was really good at explaining her teachings, and he just seemed to really have a love for this spouse who was the church.”

He came to see that a priest gives of himself to his parish or any other assignment in the same way a husband or wife gives daily for a spouse.

“The amazing thing of God is that’s actually where you find happiness and fulfillment — in that gift of yourself to something other than your own wants and desires and your own ego,” he said.

Paths to the priesthood

After college, while working in Lenexa as an engineer, and a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Father Wallisch taught confirmation students at St. Paul Parish in Olathe.
But he wasn’t always receptive when the director of religious education pointed out that she saw a potential calling for him in the priesthood.

Just the same, said Father Wallisch, “she was influential because God spoke through her.”

The young man also did a lot of praying and thinking during his adoration hours at Holy Trinity. In 2005, he began his studies at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.

As someone who loves education at every level, he cherishes opportunities to help people grow in their faith.
And he looks forward to working with young men and showing them they can also be part of that teaching process — “helping other Catholics to know their faith through being preachers and counselors and confessors and teachers on a parish level.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann believes Father Wallisch’s background as an engineer will offer an edge in this line of work.

“Father Scott is, first of all, a very zealous and talented priest. He loves Jesus, his church and the priesthood. Father Scott is a man of prayer and, in particular, possesses a genuine love for the Eucharist,” said Archbishop Naumann.

“Father Scott also has excellent organizational skills, which are essential in helping men navigate the discernment and admissions process for seminary,” he continued.

Making connections

Moreover, Archbishop Naumann sees an “infectious” enthusiasm in Father Wallisch, which be believes will inspire men to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

“Father Scott is gifted with exceptional communication skills and is not afraid to invite men to give their entire life to serving God and the church,” he said.

Father Wallisch doesn’t claim to excel at any one thing, but he brings to the table a long list of interests and experiences that he hopes will help him connect with people from all

backgrounds.
His own vocational journey is one example.

“I understood what it was like to have a job — to do the things that the majority of the population does,” he said. “I think that knowing that, I’ll be able to relate to our young men who are out of college but have not yet maybe answered the call.”
College played a huge part in his discernment, so he looks forward to working with college as well as high school students.

He’s an Eagle Scout, and knows that many new priests have Scouting in their backgrounds.

“I also love sports, and love talking about sports and going to sporting events and connecting with people on that level,” said Father Wallisch, who played soccer growing up.

He has run four marathons — three in Chicago and one in Kansas City.

And, in an entirely different arena, he has performed in musicals.

Those are just a few examples of the experiences he hopes will help him “connect to people where they are and [through] the things they love.”

He said his predecessors in the office have brought many gifts to this work and have established a strong tradition.

For now, he’s taking on strictly the duties of vocation director — identifying religious vocations, helping people through the application process, and trying to ensure that the men who think they might have a calling to the priesthood are a good fit for the archdiocese and the seminary.

Msgr. Michael Mullen, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., and Father Mitchel Zimmerman remain co-directors of seminarians for the archdiocese, working with men once they have entered the seminary.

Father Zimmerman is Father Wallisch’s predecessor in the vocation office and started serving in July as pastor of Christ the King Parish in Topeka.

Father Wallisch knows his new venture as vocation director will challenge him and asked for prayers.

“I hope that everyone already is praying for vocations,” he said. “But if they aren’t, today would be a great day to start.”

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