A search for happiness

First slide

On June 8, the eve of his 32nd birthday, Deacon Michael Isenberg will be ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. He said it's the culmination of a lifelong search for happiness.

Deacon Isenberg was born in Buffalo, N.Y., to parents Joan and Bob. The family moved to Herndon when he was 4 years old. A few years later, the family settled in Dumfries, where he attended public school and eventually Seton School in Manassas.

After high school, he enrolled at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering in 2003.

His training as an engineer offered him the potential for an affluent lifestyle. He went to work for software consulting firms first in New York then in Tampa, Fla.

But even with increasing economic prosperity, Deacon Isenberg was not satisfied.

"I was searching for happiness by buying things," he said. "(But) I wasn't happy."

While in Tampa, he spent a lot of time praying and reflecting on his life. He went to daily Mass and prayed at eucharistic adoration chapels. The prayer and reflection were slowly drawing him to the priesthood.

He realized what had been missing in his life - a total commitment to a priestly vocation. He called Father Brian G. Bashista, Arlington diocesan director of the Office of Vocations, and told him that he was interested in the priesthood.

He applied and was accepted to Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., in 2006.

He spent two years studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, returning to Mount St. Mary's in 2010.

It took Deacon Isenberg seven years to arrive at this moment - a bit longer than most discernment, so he took time off to work in parishes including Holy Trinity in Gainseville, St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls and St. John the Apostle in Leesburg. He said it helped him appreciate the role of a priest.

His experience with the other men studying at Mount St. Mary's was wonderful, he said.

"We jelled together," he said of the friendship and camaraderie that developed among his fellow seminarians.

For the past year, Deacon Isenberg has been assigned to St. Agnes Church in Arlington. Once a week he teaches first, third, fourth, and sixth grade at St. Agnes School, and it's something he loves.

Deacon Isenberg will celebrate his first Mass on his birthday at Holy Trinity in Ashburn, his home parish. As the day quickly arrives, he is trying to take in everything.

He said there have been many people responsible for helping him find his vocation. He is especially thankful for the help and friendship of Father Francis J. Peffley, then-pastor of Holy Trinity.

"(Father Peffley) has been in and out of my life for 20 years," he said. "He was very inspirational."

Now that his ordination is just days away, he can reflect on the events that have brought him to this point and what the ordination will mean.

"I'm excited," he said. "I don't think it's quite hit me yet."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013