Father Brian Schieber finds certainty in a life once filled with doubts
by Bob Hart
Special to The Leaven
The timeline goes something like this:
• Graduated from the University of Kansas (1990) with a degree in civil engineering. Became engaged; moved to Chicago to be near fiancée.
• Broke off engagement; returned to Kansas City and worked as an engineer for two years.
• Entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. Called it off one month prior to diaconate ordination. Returned to work as an engineer.
• Returned to the seminary; ordained to the priesthood in 1999.
But for Father Brian Schieber, as for many, the real story is what was happening between the lines.
He was born in Kansas City, Mo., the second of four children, to parents from big northwest Missouri farming families. His mother was one of 11 children; his father, one of nine. Both families had a long history of priestly and religious vocations, with particularly strong ties to the Benedictine community.
Brian grew up in Independence, Mo., until the fourth grade, when his family moved to Stillwell and began attending Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish-Wea. It was there, as a high school student in the Blue Valley School District, that thoughts of a religious calling were first entertained.
“It came for me out of a place of idealism, I think, wanting to somehow make a difference in the world,” he recalled. “My parents got a Maryknoll magazine that had pictures of struggling communities in Africa and other places, and I began to think about that as a way to lead a meaningful life. So I sent in a card asking for more information. It was my little secret.”
But not for long. One day shortly thereafter, a Maryknoll priest called the home.
“I told my mother I had no idea how they got my name,” said Father Brian, laughing. “I denied the whole thing.”
Fear of commitment
It was not so easy to deny, a few years later, the uncertainty he felt about getting married — as if something indefinable were pushing him in a different direction.
“Fortunately, [my fiancée and I] communicated well,” he said. “We realized we had a lot of differences and decided to go our separate ways. God speaks to us in so many different ways and, for me, the call came so many times through different people.”
By way of example, he shared a story about arriving early for Mass one day, shortly after he’d moved home from Chicago. An elderly woman sat in a pew directly behind him and, after a while, struck up a conversation.
“I can sense things about people,” she said to him. “Are you a seminarian studying for the priesthood?”
“I was thinking about the seminary, but nobody knew that but me,” said Father Brian. “I have often wondered if that old woman was God speaking to me.”
“On the other hand,” he added with a laugh, “maybe she was just an old lady who said that to everyone!”
Whatever the woman’s identity, her words had an effect, and Brian Schieber set out to become a priest. Amid much excitement and mailing of invitations just before the diaconate ordination, he phoned his mother to tell her he was putting the brakes on things for a while.
“She said, ‘Brian, you almost got married. You almost became a priest. Can you commit to anything?’ I was wondering that myself,” he said.
As he again went back to work as an engineer, Brian set out to examine the doubts that had been getting in the way of his calling. “I didn’t feel holy enough,” he said.
“I didn’t feel worthy enough.”
He began spiritual direction with a Carmelite priest, Father Terry Cyr, and explained to him that he intended to work on each of his perceived sins and shortcomings before taking the final plunge toward the priesthood.
“Father Terry told me by the time I scratched one thing off the list, I’d have added two more,” he recalled. “He said I could not make myself worthy of the priesthood — that it was a grace, a gift, and I just had to surrender to God’s grace.”
A life-changing moment of clarity came soon, inside his car on a Saturday morning as he drove downtown to work.
“I was working about 60 hours a week,” he said, “and I was also very involved with CCD and youth programs back in Wea. This particular Saturday, I had to go into work, and it meant missing a big youth conference. It occurred to me that I was finding all my joy in the things I was doing with the church, and I wasn’t looking forward to work at all.
“It just hit me, after all the doubts, and I knew with certainty that I was called to be a priest. I know some people envision making a commitment as losing freedom, but for me it was the exact opposite. I agonized over that decision but, once I made it, it was like, ‘Now I can start living my life.’
“And since then, I have never had a second thought about being a priest.
“I love it, and I know it is what God wants me to do.”
• 1999-2001: Associate pastor, Curé of Ars, Leawood; chaplain, Bishop Miege High School, Roeland Park
• 2001-2007: Archdiocesan vocations director
• 2007-2009: Archdiocesan co-director of seminarians
• 2009-present: Pastor, Most Pure Heart of Mary, Topeka; archdiocesan vicar general for clergy
Fitness: Part of a balanced life
Although he admits the demands of the priesthood can be pretty exhausting at times, Father Brian Schieber isn’t one to spend the unscheduled parts of his days napping or chilling in front of the television. Most days, when he leaves the office at 5 p.m., he heads to the gym for a strenuous hourlong workout.
“It’s a great stress-reliever,” he said. “It makes me feel so much better. I get that workout in and have a little dinner, and I’m ready and energized for my evening meetings.”
Father Brian has many unique traits which I discovered working for him in the vocation office. He loves food, so when we had pot lucks, I would ask what he was bringing, and he would say, “My healthy appetite.” He is very frugal and still sends me expense reports on very old brown office stationery he wouldn’t throw away. His frugality extends to words, too. I sent an e-mail explaining a situation and expecting at least a two-sentence response, he just said, “yes.” I replied that he couldn’t have come up with a shorter answer, and his e-mail reply came back completely blank.
Melanie Norris Savner
We attended Father Brian’s first Mass. Later, as part of the congregation at Curé of Ars, we helped welcome him to parish priesthood. In the years that have followed, Father Brian has become co-director of vocations, then assigned as a major pastor in Topeka. He was also named as one of the vicars general of the archdiocese. He is a great friend and a wonderful priest!
Mary Anne & John Henke
It was over 10 years ago that I first marched into the chaplain’s office at Bishop Miege High School. with a warm smile and asked what was on The chaplain greeted me my mind. As a non-Catholic, I was convinced that the church was complete baloney and wanted to let a priest know about it. Maybe it was his inexhaustible patience or his genuine willingness to listen, but I found myself back in his office consistently. It was years later that I converted; and only then did I vividly see the profound impact of that chaplain — Father Brian Schieber.
We were blessed to have Father Brian at Curé of Ars Parish. He touched our lives in the following ways. We were excited to have him bless our house when we first moved into the parish. Father Brian also visited us at the hospital when my father was [there] and proceeded to baptize and anoint him as well. He even made a house call to visit my father and help him to better understand the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Beth, Tom, Emory and Corey Hall
I just want to say that Father Brian has been a godsend to us at Most Pure Heart of Mary. His smile and humble sense of humor has helped our parish family in many ways. He did one time ask Greg Torrez and me how it felt to be older than our pastor, but we promised him he had more wisdom.
I grew up with Father Brian in Holy Rosary-Wea Parish. I remember attending Sunday SOR classes, CCD then with Brian as we were in the same class. Brian was always the quiet one; however, I remember him paying attention and listening, compared to us others. My fondest memory was seeing Brian often in the adoration chapel at Wea, and I could tell he had a great love for God and was devoted to this Catholic faith.
Father Brian, while being the associate pastor at Curé of Ars, was a welcome traveler on our annual 8th-grade trips to Washington, D.C. Students and chaperones had the rare privilege of being with and experiencing a positive young priest who loved the Lord and lived his vocation joyfully, while being charmingly human. On his first trip, Father Brian neglected to pack a coat; he wore layers of loaned sweatshirts. At the Ford’s Theater Museum, Father Brian discovered that he was the exact height and stature of Abraham Lincoln. He endeared himself to everyone.
Dorothy R. Lancaster Retired principal, Curé of Ars School
I remember Father Brian before he was ordained leading us in the rosary at the abortion clinic on many Saturdays. I was at his ordination ceremony and always knew he would make an awesome priest who had a heart for his flock and the unborn.
Our friendship and love for Father Brian goes back a long time. First at Curé of Ars and then we visited him at Mundelein when he was raised to the diaconate. When he worried he wasn’t good enough to be a priest, we prayed harder than ever for God’s will for him. Now, we are proud of the wonderful priest he is and only sorry not to see him more since he is so busy with his duties.
Ed and Mary Sayers