Road to priesthood passed under golden arches


Deacon Anthony Saiki stands in front of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. Deacon Saiki said that the moment he walked through the seminary doors he knew that was where he was supposed to be. Leaven photo by Todd Habiger.

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The road to the priesthood for Deacon Anthony Joseph Saiki started out in a devout home packed with siblings. It will wind up with the laying on of hands on May 24.

But it led through a place many of us have found ourselves: the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

“I started working for McDonald’s when I was 14 years old — pretty young,” said Deacon Saiki. “It was a great opportunity. I loved working with people. You get to see so many kinds of people when you work in fast food.

“By 16, I was a full-time employee, and right before I turned 17, I was made an assistant manager at the McDonald’s in DeSoto.”

While at McDonald’s, he learned to empathize with his coworkers.

“I developed a lot of good connections with my coworkers at McDonald’s and learned about the issues facing their lives,” he said.

“Sometimes it was a pro-life issue, sometimes it was immigration or fair wages,” he continued. “I wanted to help them.

“I’ve always been intrigued by politics — I’m kind of a political junkie. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m meant to help these people by getting involved in politics and public service.’”

All that changed when he was invited to visit Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis in late March 2007.

“I was invited and I thought I might as well, because I didn’t have anything else going on,” said Deacon Saiki.

“The moment I walked through the doors of the seminary,” he recalled, “something in my heart and soul just dramatically shifted. “I went from thinking I might become a public official to knowing — having a certainty — that I was supposed to be in the seminary [and] that I was to supposed to enter not later, but as soon as possible. My plans for KU were put aside and I began the application process.”

Deacon Saiki was born in Wichita, the oldest of the 10 children of John and Virginia Saiki. Home-schooled through moves from El Dorado, then St. Marys, to Topeka and finally DeSoto, Deacon Saiki finished his high-school level education in 2006.

The idea of a priestly vocation had been in his mind for a long time.

“I had wanted to go to the seminary and become a priest from when I was first Communion age — second grade — all the way through freshman and sophomore year in high school,” said Deacon Saiki.

Two major influences in his life produced this desire — his family and parish priests.

“In my family, the faith was always a priority, especially in home schooling,” said Deacon Saiki. “We’d do all our studies, but we’d always, as a family, study the Catechism [of the Catholic Church] together. It wasn’t for a specified amount of time. We’d talk about the faith, questions and answers and watch religious movies.”

As an altar boy, Deacon Saiki had the opportunity to get to know several priests, and they made a big impression.

“Msgr. Charles Walsh (in El Dorado) was a very dignified and humble man, a wonderful priest,” said Deacon Saiki. “The more I was around him, the more I was intrigued by him and wanted to be like him.”

Another great priest was Father Carl Dekat, pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys and at St. Joseph Parish in Topeka.

“Seeing him celebrating Mass very reverently and piously just affirmed my desire for the priesthood and to be active in my faith,” he said.

But after he finished his high school-level education in 2006, he attended Johnson County Community College. By that time, he was considering going on to study political science or communications at the University of Kansas . . . until his visit to Kenrick-Glennon set him back on the path to the seminary.

Deacon Saiki studied at Kenrick-Glennon from 2007 to 2014, and  was ordained a deacon on May 18, 2013, at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka.

He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 24 at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe.

“I want to be a priest who, in everything he does, works for the holiness and salvation of souls,” said Deacon Saiki. “And, in all things, to give glory to God. “If I can go to bed at night thinking I’ve accomplished those things, I will be a very happy priest.”

Personally Speaking: Anthony Joseph Saiki

Age: 26

Born: Wichita

Raised: El Dorado, St. Marys, Topeka and DeSoto

Parents: John and Virginia Saiki

Siblings: Angela, John Steven, Michael, Christina, Matthias, Jayme, Dominic, Bernadette, and Maria

Home parish: St. Paul in Olathe

Favorite TV show: “Downton Abbey”

The most inspirational Christians I’ve met: The cloistered Carmelites of El Convento de la Encarnación in Avila, Spain

Favorite saint and why: St. John of Avila. I wrote my master’s thesis on his theology of the priesthood and reform.

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite childhood toy: My Lego collection

Favorite place in the whole world: Avila, Spain

Dream vacation: Pretty much anywhere in Spain. I love the Spanish countryside, and Spain has produced so many great saints. I have been to Spain twice — once with Archbishop Naumann and the other seminarians of our archdiocese for World Youth Day in 2011, and last summer for Spanish immersion. I really hope to go back again.

Best job I’ve ever had: Aside from what I am doing now, I would have to say McDonald’s. I loved working with people and learned so much about life and culture. I also learned quite a bit of Spanish while I was there — something I will certainly use in my priesthood.

Worst job I’ve ever had: Detasseling corn when I was 14

If I were missionary sent to a faraway place, I’d be sure to bring my trusty: Hand sanitizer.

Best advice I received: To relate every single experience — good, bad, and otherwise — to Christ. Because of the incarnation, Jesus Christ’s becoming man, he can understand what we are going through in such a profound way and walks with us at each moment. It really can enhance one’s prayer if he or she sees Christ walking right alongside them in whatever life throws at them.

My advice for someone seeking his or her vocation: Find silence in your day to talk to God about what he is calling you to do in your life. We live in such a busy society and culture that it can be very difficult to hear God speaking to us. He will reach us, but we can foster the conversation when we find silence.

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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