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It's anchors aweigh for Seton School grad

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In hindsight, it makes sense that Deacon Sean T. Koehr plans to become a Navy chaplain. His grandfather was an admiral and two of his uncles were submariners. And there’s probably still a videotape somewhere of a young Sean playing “Mass” with his younger brother, Dan.

But finding and answering “a call within a call” is really the result of more than a decade of “constant conversation with God,” said Deacon Koehr, who will be ordained a priest by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington June 8. 

“I’m confident going into this that this is God’s will because it’s me talking to him over 12 years,” said Deacon Koehr, who graduated from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. and attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. for three years. “It’s a real great journey and relationship. I’m just ready to make the final jump in my discernment to the priesthood.” 

Deacon Koehr, whose home parish is St. John the Evangelist in Warrenton, graduated from Seton School in Manassas in 2008. 

“In high school we’d hear about the priesthood and I’d feel drawn to it a little bit,” he said. But at the time, he said, it wasn’t a strong enough prompt to think much beyond, “I hope I’m not called to that.”

Deacon Koehr graduated from the University of Notre Dame, where he initially enrolled on a Navy ROTC scholarship. “I had all the questions in life answered. ‘I want to be married. And I want to be in the Navy,’” he recalled. 

“As soon as I got to college, I had questions. ‘What’s the purpose of my life?’ As I started to develop a prayer life, I started to ask questions.” 

He acquired a love for philosophy and began thinking about the priesthood. He dropped out of NROTC so he could attend the seminary, but still had a Navy commitment. He was commissioned as an officer in the Chaplain Corps. It all made perfect sense — “and God set it up that way,” said Koehr. 

Catholic chaplains are “the most under-manned area” in the Navy right now, according to Deacon Koehr. 

“I think that military services are really fertile grounds for the Gospel,” he said. “The men and women in the military are really searching for the best in themselves.”

The Navy requires three years of service to the church before he begins five years of active duty, so Deacon Koehr’s first assignment will be as a parochial vicar at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg. 

“I’m really looking forward to preaching the Gospel at Mass — every day,” he said. “It’s the most important message in the history of the world. It’s a huge responsibility but it’s an awesome privilege to be entrusted with the church’s tradition. Because everyone needs it. Everyone needs the Gospel and the sacraments.” 

Deacon Koehr said he is most looking forward to entering “into the deepest parts of people’s lives: their pain, their suffering, helping them to find, to see Jesus there.” 

“It’s a really awesome privilege and I can’t imagine more exciting work to do.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019