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When your plan fails, try God’s, says Deacon Nicholas Schierer

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Deacon Nicholas J. Schierer had a plan. Graduate from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, become a high school history teacher, marry his girlfriend and together raise an army of Catholics. But in 2011, five years after college, he found himself at St. Veronica Church in Chantilly with no teaching job, and back in the single life.


"Before, I was a chicken with its head cut off, but in seminary I found peace, I found joy in doing God’s will." Deacon Nicholas J. Schierer

“My entire plan for life was not happening,” said Deacon Schierer. “So I started praying to God, ‘What do you want me to do with my life?’”


During the consecration at Mass, he looked at the priest with Jesus in his hands and began thinking, “I could do that and I could be happy doing that for the rest of my life.”


It wasn’t the first time he thought of the priesthood. Growing up in Fairfax with his parents, Ann and Daniel Schierer, and his four brothers, he started thinking about being a military chaplain when he was in first grade. His older brother, William, also was discerning the priesthood at a young age. But when William entered the seminary, Deacon Schierer was in high school and began to run away from the priesthood.


“I had been mistaken for my brother most of my life and I didn’t want that to continue,” said Deacon Schierer.


But after that Mass at St. Veronica Church, he decided to put the priesthood back on the table — almost. He posed the idea to a number of college friends, expecting someone to talk him out of it, but to his surprise they supported the idea. So did William, who encouraged him to talk to Father Brian G. Bashista, vocations director. In one last ditch effort to get his “no,” he went to his mother who thought the idea was wonderful.


During his meeting with Father Bashista that April, he was asked to wait a year before applying and to develop his spiritual life. Deacon Schierer began teaching theology at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax and received spiritual direction from Father Marcus A. Pollard, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church.


“I started praying Morning Prayer, going to weekday Mass more frequently and doing spiritual reading,” he said.


He was able to apply and was accepted on Pentecost 2012. “I was thrilled,” he said.


Soon he was packing his bags for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.


“Before, I was a chicken with its head cut off, but in seminary I found peace, I found joy in doing God’s will,” he said.


During the second year of pre-theology, Deacon Schierer was given the option to transfer to the Pontifical North American College in Rome.


“The first week in Rome I remember waking up every moment and looking out my window and seeing St. Peter’s and saying, ‘Oh good, it’s still there. It’s not a dream.’”


Being in Rome has strengthened his confidence in his vocation and deepened his faith, he said.


He was ordained a deacon in Rome Sept. 18, 2017, and has been able to attend papal Masses, the canonization of Mother Teresa of Kolkata and even served as a deacon for the pope during Mass.


Schierer is scheduled to be ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More June 9. As much as he will miss Rome, he is counting down the days to ordination — eagerly.


“I’m looking forward to celebrating the sacraments, celebrating the Mass and forgiving sins,” said Deacon Schierer. “I can’t wait.”


He has been assigned as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls. He will celebrate his first Mass June 10 at St. Veronica Church at 10:45 a.m.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018