Local Parishes

The persistence of the priestly vocation

When Deacon Scott Wallisch finally reached his career goal, he found that God had another one waiting


by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Deacon Scott Wallisch first thought of becoming a priest when he was only eight years old.

But what does a kid really know about the priesthood?

“I also thought I could be a priest and a baseball player, or a priest and an actor,” he said. “I didn’t really understand the concept.”

Pretty soon, however, he laid that thought aside. Another interest began to pull him in another direction.

“It was also the time when I began to think about other things,” said Deacon Wallisch. “I wanted to be an architect at that point.”

“From a pretty early age I began making a plan for my life,” he continued. “I was going to be an architect and an engineer with my own firm, and so everything I did was to fulfill that goal. I wanted to get married and have a big family, too.”

He grew up to became an engineer and an architect — until God began to nudge him in another direction.

Deacon Wallisch will be ordained a priest by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at 10:30 a.m. on May 29 at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kan.

“It’s because I think that’s what God wants of my life, and I want to do it as well,” he said.

The future priest is the youngest of the eight children — seven boys, one girl — of William and Elizabeth Wallisch of St. Louis. His father worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft; his mother was a homemaker.

“We are a very Catholic family,” he said. “Faith was always important. My parents were daily Mass-goers. We said the rosary frequently and said prayers before meals and bed. The faith was very much a part of our family.”

Deacon Wallisch went to St. Martin de Porres Grade School and then to the Jesuit-affiliated St. Louis University High School.

“My parents already had given me a good base to my faith, but the Jesuit school both trained me academically and expanded my theological overview,” he said.

“[There] I led the first Kairos retreat for my high school,” he continued. “That, for me, was also vocational and formational.”

Thoughts about the priesthood would return to him periodically during high school, but he kept pushing them aside. They weren’t part of “The Plan.”

He graduated from St. Louis University High School in 1996 and that fall entered the engineering and architecture programs at the University of Kansas.

It proved to be a providential choice, since it was there he became involved in the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center.

“It was there I encountered people my age who loved the faith,” he said. “I encountered priests who really loved the faith and the church. I took classes and, even though I took 13 years of Catholic school religion classes, I was finally on fire to learn more and more and go deeper and deeper.”

He kept that hunger for the faith, even after he graduated from the University of Kansas in 2002. He continued to date and worked for George Butler and Associates Engineers and Architects.

“Once I started working, even though I really liked what I did and the people I worked with, I really got the sense that I was running away from what God wanted me to do,” said Deacon Wallisch. “I really just came to the realization that [God] knew, better than I, what I was made for and how I would find happiness.”

His friends and family were delighted, and so were his co-workers and bosses.

“[When I told an executive], he said he got shivers up his spine,” said Wallisch. “He never met anyone who went on to become a priest.”

He entered University of St. Mary by the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago. Discerning his vocation, however, didn’t end when his bags hit the floor.

“For the first two years of seminary, I wanted to leave, but I wasn’t going to leave until God gave me his sign, and that never came,” said Deacon Wallisch. “So, eventually, he and I got on the same page.”

While in the seminary, he deepened his faith as he discerned his vocation. He gained a deeper appreciation for Scripture, for example, and for contemplation.

“[The] Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha is where I learned a kind of active contemplation in the Ignatian style, where you examine your day and experiences in light of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration,” he said. “I found that it fit me very well and it really improved my prayer life dramatically.”

He was ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 16, 2009. He does not know where he will be assigned after his priestly ordination, but he’s eager to start his ministry.

“I’m looking forward to a lot of things,” he said. “I really feel the parish is where I was called to be. I grew up dealing with people of all ages, so I look forward to living a life of ministry that does that naturally in a parish — preparing people to receive the sacraments and administering the sacraments.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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