‘Beyond anything I can imagine’

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Deacon Will Schierer's words came quickly, articulately and with a good dose of laughs during a recent interview just days shy of his June 11 priesthood ordination at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Schierer's faith was cultivated locally. Born Dec. 30, 1982, he grew up attending St. Joseph Parish in Herndon with his parents, Daniel (who died 10 years ago) and Ann, and three brothers. He went on to attend Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax and graduate from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

Yet the path from St. Joseph's pews to the cathedral's altar also required, like all discernment journeys, reflecting on the different directions life can take.

Prior to his diaconate ordination last spring, Schierer said while he felt almost certain he wanted to be a priest by seventh grade, he liked women and babies. At the time, with his self-proclaimed "middle-school logic," he thought that meant he should get married. With prayer, introspection, the experience of dating a young woman in college and maturity, however, he realized it's "not babies and girls versus priesthood," and he made the decision to enter St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

Schierer now sees that "everything in my life God used. He used everything to make me a better man, a better priest."

Though not nearly as difficult as discerning his vocation, he was told that Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, where his spent his diaconate year, was a very busy place, "a place where you could go in many different directions and the challenge is to keep track of what you need to," he said.

But his year at Blessed Sacrament "was just awesome." While it's a large parish, "there's an emphasis on community and on living the Faith," said Schierer.

He brought the Eucharist to the sick in nursing homes and a hospital. He taught classes at Blessed Sacrament School and participated in the Legion of Mary, the young adults group and the mothers' prayer group.

Affirming his appreciation for women, he said the prayer group contained "tremendous women of faith. They are incredibly inspiring."

He also was inspired by the priests at Blessed Sacrament, Father John C. Cregan, pastor; Fathers Terry A. Cramer and Anthony J. Killian, parochial vicars; and Msgr. Frank E. Mahler, who was in residence.

Father Cregan, said Schierer, "demonstrates a combination of humor, love and feeling for people; he is a priest who you want to emulate."

And Schierer's own humor was no doubt appreciated in the rectory. "There was a lot of laughs and joy during dinner," Schierer said.

The soon-to-be priest also was able to spend ample time with babies over the past 12 months. The 30 baptisms he performed were one of the highlights of his diaconate year.

The first baby he baptized was his older brother's now 13-month-old son. "It's just amazing - the miracle of the sacraments - to minister the sacrament that is taking place through you and to change the baby's life forever."

What fills him with the most joy as he looks toward ordination is celebrating Mass.

Schierer said he is in awe of the Eucharist and of "the amazingness of interceding between God and man. It's beyond anything I can imagine and it is truly humbling."

When he celebrates his first Mass June 12 at St. Veronica Parish in Chantilly, his family, old friends, college buddies and fellow seminarians will be there to rejoice with him.

And his father will be there, too. "I will hold him in my mind and heart," said Schierer.

"I know he was - is - very proud of me and supports me.

"I feel so blessed and thankful for my family, for the priests I have known … for the richness of God's providence," he said.

And the richness of Schierer's love for God, life and people that bursts through his voice will very likely shine forth into his vocation.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011