Meet Our Seniors

Get to know each of our senior seminarians

The following are short stories about the senior men at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary. The stories highlight their own personal journey it IHMS, how it is God called them to be here, and how they've grown throughout their formation. Check back often as more stories are added.

Jacob Bruns - Archdiocese of Milwaukee

The first time I thought about the priesthood was when I was a freshman in high school. I was on a mission/service trip to Rochester, NY. On that trip, I was told that I would make a good priest. At the time that idea scared me, as I was just starting to enter into my faith and practice it. Nonetheless, the idea scared me so I ran away from that idea in high school. While I was running away from the Lord I was having a slow but continual conversion of heart. My senior year of high school rolled around and I was planning on going to UW-Milwaukee to study Information Technology. Through conversations with the Vocations Office, I was asked to move into the JPII house at St. Roberts Parish in Shorewood during my year of study at UWM. During that year I fell in love with the holy sacrifice of the mass and started the habit of daily prayer. During Duc in Altum (a silent retreat at St. Francis de Sales Seminary), it was clear that it was the right time for me to apply to the seminary.

In seminary, we have a lot of time to reflect and pray. This year especially, I have been able to reflect on my time here at IHM. It has been a great time of prayer, fraternity, and study. Over my time in seminary, I have been able to grow in a deeper relationship with the Lord and get closer to His Sacred Heart. The relationships that have been formed here have helped me in my formation journey to become a better man striving after a virtuous life. Thank you to all of our benefactors that have made this time here at IHM seminary possible!

Robert Budzius - Diocese of Gary

Zavior Franck - Diocese of Duluth

My journey to seminary began when I was in grade school. At that time a curiosity and a sense of profound wonder concerning the priesthood was placed upon my heart. Little by little that curiosity spurred me on to learn about the priesthood, vocation, and the call to holiness. As my knowledge of these things deepened and matured throughout middle school and high school, there emerge within me the question of vocation, specifically, "Am I called to be a priest?" There was no immediate answer one way or the other, but the gentle pull toward the priesthood remained. I had lots of support and encouragement to enter seminary from family and friends, but I found the greatest encouragement in prayer. This gentle call/pull was all I had but it was enough. By the end of high school, it was clear to me that I needed to enter the seminary for further discernment.

My time at IHMS has been marked by growth, both in places of strength and weakness but most of all in prayer and relationship. The most important area of growth for me has been learning what it means to be a beloved son of the Father; the faithful belief and living out of this truth has been incredibly transformative and lifegiving. These past few years have been the most challenging, yet grace filled years of my life and I am very grateful for the faculty and my brother seminarians at IHMS who have shared many of the joys and sorrows alongside me and have formed me through their love of Christ and his church.

Josiah Hanson - Diocese of Rapid City

Scott Kahler - Diocese of St. Cloud

I was born and raised in Little Falls, MN in a decent practicing catholic family who sent me to a catholic elementary and middle school. In middle school I didn’t have much of a desire to practice the catholic faith, but I did because my friends and family did. After my eighth-grade year, my friends thought it would be a good idea to go on a Steubenville retreat. During the Saturday night holy hour, I found a new desire to actually be Catholic and maybe even take it seriously. Entering into the public high school after Catholic school definitely didn’t make being catholic easier, however, every summer I would return to the Steubenville conferences, and it would help me refocus my life. After my sophomore year at another Steubenville conference, I all the sudden started to feel a small call to the priesthood, however I didn’t really think much of it and tried to forget about it afterwards… but it didn’t really go away. Over the next year and a half, I struggled between the idea of going to NDSU for architecture, or going to seminary, however I eventually came to realize that one of these callings was my own desires and the other was from God. When I came to visit IHM I knew that this was where I needed to go after high school, whether or not God was calling me to be a priest. Since entering IHMS, I have greatly grown in becoming closer to the man God is calling me to be and I desire to continuously grow in conformity to the life of Jesus Christ to better serve him in all I do.

Mark Nosbush - Diocese of St. Cloud

The call to the priesthood did not occur for me until I was about 25 years old and the call to live a faithful and holy life was only a few years earlier at 23. Although I grew up with the faith, it was not until my twenties that I recognized the Lord and his immense love for me. Having received this grace from the Lord, I started desiring the Sacraments more and started spending time with the Lord in adoration. Eventually, I felt a pull to the priesthood, and, with the support of priests and my family, after two years I finally entered the seminary at 27 years old.

As I am entering my senior, I can see the growth that I have undergone since entering. The path has not always been easy, but the Lord has been very gracious and patient with me. I have come to know the Father’s love for me even more and the desire to share that love with others has grown as well. I hope this year of formation brings me into a greater union with the Lord and, if the Lord wills it, onto major seminary.

Luke Olson - Diocese of Peoria

From an early age I was intrigued by the priesthood. However, I didn’t have an actual or powerful desire to become a priest until after I began altar serving at my parish at the age of thirteen. While serving, I slowly started to fall in love with the Mass, the priesthood, and most importantly, the Eucharist, which was only expedited by my pastor’s example and encouragement. This love of the Eucharist then began to blossom into a desire to share the beauty and blessing I found in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist with others. I saw the great beauty of living a life devoted to sharing the Love of Christ with those who did not know him.

While in seminary I have continued to grow in my desire for a true and deep intimacy with our Lord and, in doing so, have come to greater self-knowledge. Through this daily growth in self-knowledge, I have been able to see and discern how the Lord is calling me to serve his Church.

Alex Peters - Diocese of Winona-Rochester

I was in a Bible study during my junior year of college where I was challenged on my belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. We were all told that if the Eucharist is true, why are we not spending more time with the creator of the universe, God. After a few months of asking in prayer if the Eucharist was true, I encountered Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time while serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. As I was distributing the Precious Blood, I knew in my heart that I was holding Jesus in my hands. At that moment I knew that The Eucharist was real, which also meant that everything within the Catholic Church must be true because the Church is the only place where the Eucharist actually is Jesus, and not just a symbol of Him. At this point, I was also trying to figure out what I was going to do after college, but now I realized that I wanted to be able to make Jesus part of my life in a greater way. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that instead of bringing Jesus into my job, why don't I just make my entire job about Jesus; so I decided to apply to be a FOCUS missionary. After accepting a position with FOCUS, God started to invite me to consider serving Him in an even greater way by discerning entering seminary. Halfway through my first year with FOCUS I knew that I needed to pursue this calling that God placed on my heart, so I asked FOCUS if I could end my contract with them at the end of the year in order to enter seminary and by the grace of God, they said yes. I didn't really know what to expect when entering seminary, except that I knew that I would have to go back to college to get a philosophy degree before entering theology school. The formators and other seminarians were all inviting and also challenged me to grow in my relationship with the Lord. While at IHMS, I have grown tremendously in my understanding of various aspects of our faith while also growing in friendship with the other seminarians.

Gabriel Rysavy - Diocese of Winona-Rochester

From a young age, I knew of the seminary and the priesthood, but they never stood out to me as something I would eventually pursue. As I entered high school, I began to receive the customary battery of questions: what do you want to do after high school, where are you going, what will you be studying, etc.? Though I enjoyed many subjects in school, I found myself unsure of my answer, and thus I turned to prayer. 

After my freshman year of high school, I attended a Steubenville Conference in Rochester, Minnesota. During Eucharistic Adoration, I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do with my life?” Following my prayerful query, the Lord placed the thought of seminary on my heart. Initially, I felt great uncertainty toward the proposition, and I began to weigh seminary and marriage against each other. However, those who are familiar with discernment know that one holy hour is usually not enough to learn God’s will for your entire life. That inclination toward seminary remained, and I continued to consider it as I finished out high school. Though I had many fears and concerns about entering seminary, through prayer and conversations with my vocations director, the Lord helped me to work through them.

As I begin my fourth year here at Immaculate Heart of Seminary, I am ever grateful for the gift of being with this community of brother seminarians and excellent formators. The Lord has been so good and helped me to grow immensely in my time here. My relationship with our Lord continues to grow day by day as I persevere in prayer and discernment of His will.

Ryan Saltness - Diocese of Winona-Rochester

I was born and raised in Rochester, MN. I grew up in a Catholic school system having graduated from Lourdes High School. In 2017, I found a newfound interest in the Catholic faith during my later years of undergraduate studies at St. John's University (MN). After graduation in 2019 and compelled by the transforming message of the Gospel, I served 2 years as a FOCUS Missionary in Chicago. 

It was during my time with FOCUS, a college outreach apostolate serving on college campuses across the United States, where the Lord began to put the priesthood on my heart. This would continue to be cultivated through the newfound peace and excitement I found in each step of my continuing discernment. Entering the Pre-Theology program at IHM, I have been blessed with an incredible community and staff to walk with me through the possible call to the priesthood.

John Vrchota - Diocese of Winona-Rochester

I was raised in a practicing Catholic family, on a small farm near Lakefield, Minnesota. My family has always been very active at my parish, so I grew up always wanting to help at church. As an only child, I had a lot of quiet time to enjoy God’s creation. I had a hard time with classmates in school, but this also let me learn how to depend on the Lord. All these things helped me to experience, ponder, and receive God’s love. I first started thinking about priesthood when I started serving Mass in sixth grade. There was within me, a natural openness to desiring the Lord’s plan for me. A few years later I went and talked with a priest. He introduced me to Saint John Vianney, the patron of priests, and told me to pray with him. I continued to think about the priesthood in high school while also exploring possible career choices. While preparing for Confirmation, the Lord led me to Saint Isidore the Farmer. What I most loved about his story was that he attended daily Mass, even though it interfered with his work. I started thinking that God wanted me to work in agriculture and help feed the world. I attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and graduated with a degree in crop and soil science. Yet, even while I was there, priesthood was very much on my mind. During my last semester, the Lord placed seminary on my heart. I visited IHM and decided that the Lord was calling me here, though I had to wait a few years, for the Lord’s timing, to enter. Meanwhile, I was graced with teaching religious education and gained valuable work experience. It was with great joy when the time to start seminary came.

God has done so much for me in formation. I have been graced with His healing and merciful love. My prayer life has deepened tremendously while reaching new levels of intimacy with God. My understanding of the Mass and Christ’s priesthood has been heightened. My joy in serving others has increased. IHM is a special place. I am so grateful for the faculty and my brothers. Wherever He may lead me I ask for the grace to follow. Thank you for all your prayers and support. May God bless you.

 

Collin van Waardenburg - Diocese of Gary

My vocation story began at my baptism. My pastor told my father that, since I was his first baptism at the parish, it was an old priest legend that I was destined to be ordained. The priest who later took over at the parish, a very old Benedictine, said something similar when he first saw me wandering up the steps of the church at age four before Sunday Mass. I always loved going to Mass, and in kindergarten, I felt a child-like desire to one day be in the sanctuary, just like Father. From then on, my life seemed to be governed by a sense of destiny, as if my future life was set in stone. However, sin crept into my teenage life, and I began to feel disconnected from both God and His Church. It was only after a number of years away from the Sacrament of Penance that I was able to have a profound experience of God's mercy in the confessional. From there, I was convicted with the belief that others had to experience the same radical compassion that I had. The idea that three words, "I absolve you," could wipe away years of sin dumbstruck me, and I knew others had to hear those same words. It wasn't long before I found myself at the seminary.

 

In my years at IHM, I have found myself challenged in many incredible ways, but I could never say that a single one of these challenges was not necessary or a major source of growth in my character. Over the years, multiple people have remarked that they had rarely seen me smile before I entered the seminary, and that even my gait had changed. But above all I would summarize my growth in the seminary in a simple maxim: Before I entered, I believed that I had to change myself to be like a priest so that I could merit the priesthood. I had to be "strong enough" for the job. These years of formation have never failed to show me my own weakness, and from these experiences, I now know that the challenge is to be weak enough for the priesthood, and to be weak enough for the easy yoke of Christ.

Ethan Wilcox - Diocese of Marquette

My senior year of high school was quite the rollercoaster to put it simply. Amidst trying to figure out what the Lord wanted me to do with my life, applying for colleges, and everything else that comes with becoming an adult, a friend invited me on a retreat that Fall. After some convincing, I decided I would tag along. I went into the retreat asking the Lord for one thing: to tell me what He wanted me to do with my life. At one point during the retreat, it seemed as though everything stilled for a moment as I gazed upon the San Damiano crucifix hanging in the corner. I heard the Lord say to me so clearly, "Would you do this for me?" I knew immediately that he meant priesthood and I responded with the most joyful yes I think I have ever been able to muster. To really seal the deal, about 2 minutes later a priest asked if any of us were considering priesthood or religious life and would like to talk. I took that opportunity and here I am now, entering my senior year at IHM!

Lawrence Wirries - Diocese of Crookston

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