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Deacon Aaron Waldeck will be the archdiocese’s newest priest

Deacon Aaron Waldeck incenses the congregation at the Chrism Mass at Savior Pastoral Center. He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 25 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Kansas City, Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The idea of becoming a priest does not (usually) occur in the mind of a man like a cartoon lightbulb turning on.

Deacon Aaron Waldeck knows this.

“It was a very gradual experience, not a one-time thing,” said Deacon Waldeck.

“Archbishop Naumann always says, ‘More than I want you to become a priest, I want you to do God’s will,’ so it’s a very gradual process,” he added.

That very gradual process will end when Deacon Waldeck is ordained a priest by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on May 25 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Kansas City, Kansas. He was ordained a deacon on May 20, 2023, by Archbishop Naumann at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Shawnee.

Deacon Waldeck is one of two children of Tobie and Carolyn Waldeck. He has one younger sister, Helene. His father is a retired public school principal and his mother is an occupational therapist.

He was baptized at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, but when Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish was moved from Bonner Springs to western Shawnee, the family joined that parish. Deacon Waldeck attended Sacred Heart of Jesus School. He graduated from St. James Academy in Lenexa in 2013.

It was while at St. James that the idea of becoming a priest first occurred to him.

“St. James was very important for me,” he said. “St. James made me want to make my faith my own. My faith became alive while I was there.”

Aaron Waldeck kneels before Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann as he offers a prayer of consecration during a Mass ordaining Waldeck to the transitional diaconate on May 20, 2023, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Shawnee. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

But having a profound conversion experience, like he did at St. James, did not move him into the seminary. Deacon Waldeck put those thoughts on the back burner and entered the University of Kansas, where he graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in classical languages.

 If St. James was the important start down the gradual road of considering the priesthood, then Deacon Waldeck’s years at the University of Kansas and involvement at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center were absolutely vital.

“It was at KU that I began to take the discernment of my vocation seriously,” he said.

The director of the St. Lawrence Center at the time, Father Steven Beseau, became a mentor and a friend. Then-archdiocesan vocation director Father Scott Wallisch, too, gave critical guidance. A Capuchin Franciscan, Father Curtis Carlson gave him spiritual direction.

Activities played a big role, too.

“One important [point] was when Father Beseau took a group of men from St. Lawrence Center on a trip to Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma,” he said. “We spent our spring break there. There were moments during the silent retreat when I could clearly hear God’s call inviting me to [the] seminary. That was a big one.

“And I attended a SEEK conference and some FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conferences, where I began to hear God’s call as well.”

Deacon Aaron Waldeck distributes Communion to Sister M. Karolyn Nunes during Mass at the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation on Aug. 1 in Seixal. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Deacon Waldeck enrolled in Kenrick- Glennon Seminary, St. Louis, in 2017.

The seminary, however, is not the end of discerning but rather the entering of a more intense stage.

“I thought it was a pretty steady journey until I did the 30-day silent retreat,” he said. “It was a powerful spiritual experience, and it turned my world upside down. It made me approach [the] seminary a lot differently. That was during the summer of the pandemic when the world blew up and there were riots everywhere. I was in the middle of nowhere in rural Minnesota. It was wonderful.”

What advice would he give to men considering the priesthood? Three things.

First, discernment takes time. Take seminary formation one year at a time.

Second, at some point, you will have to make a decision.

Third, as St. Pope John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid.”

Personally Speaking

Name: Deacon Aaron Waldeck

Age at ordination: 28

City/town/location born: Shawnee

Parents: Tobie and Carolyn

Sibling: Helene

Hometown: Shawnee

Favorite movie: “The Great Escape”

Favorite music: NEEDTOBREATHE

One of the most inspirational Christians I’ve met: Sister Wilhelmina

Favorite Seminary Class/Activity: class: Christology | activity: Fall and Spring Softball Game

Favorite devotion and why: St. Josemaria Escriva and his book “The Way.” It changed my life in high school and I return to it often.

Recommended book: “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken

Favorite food: Chipotle

Least favorite food: celery

Favorite childhood toy: baseball gear

Hobbies and interests: fishing, golf, reading

While I was growing up, I wanted to be: a football player.

Dream vacation: Spain

Worst job I ever had: door-to-door salesman

Best job I ever had: working at Mass Street Soda in Lawrence

My hidden talent/skill: impersonations

People who had a major influence on my vocation: Father Steven Beseau, Msgr. Edmund Griesedieck, Father Joseph Carola, and many other friends and family along the way

Best advice I received while seeking my vocation: “Take it one day at a time.”

My advice to someone seeking their vocation or how to get the most out of the seminary: Discernment can and must take you a long way, but eventually you have to say yes to something.

Qualities I admire in other priests: theological wisdom, a pastoral and priestly heart, confidence in God, love of the priesthood

What I most look forward to in my priestly ministry: celebrating the sacraments and returning home to KCK

I want to be a priest because: God has invited me to do so and has marked out this path for my life. What could be better than saying yes to his invitation?

About the author

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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