Anthony Richter grew up surrounded by Catholicism. His grandfather, once a seminarian, ended up raising a family of 14 children, including his father, as well as two uncles who became priests. His mother’s side was no less impressive, as she was one of 13 kids. Everyone, to some degree, is still practicing the faith, so it should be no surprise that Richter, a senior from the Diocese of Cheyenne, is discerning a life in service of the Lord. But his road to Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary wasn’t a straight one.
Richter, the only Wyomingite at IHMS, admitted that as much as he identified as Catholic, early on, it wasn’t personal to him. He likened it to identifying with a political party.
“I knew all the talking points to defend the faith, to provide the right answers,” he said. “But I listened to a talk a few months ago, saying that the truth isn’t a collection of arguments or the right positions to hold in a certain argument. Rather, the truth is a person, and I don’t think I understood that for a long time.”
Ever since the third grade, Richter loved science, so following his graduation from high school, he enrolled in a community college in his hometown of Gillette for a year before transferring to the South Dakota School of Mines to pursue his goal of becoming a mechanical engineer. However, the summer before the move to South Dakota, Richter took “a gigantic step” in learning to make his faith more personal and not, as he said, “something you just do on Sunday.”
That summer, Richter attended a retreat organized by his uncle (the priest) for he and several of his cousins. It’s one each man in the family experiences sometime following high school graduation, and it was a chance for him to get to know his other relatives and simply spend time in fraternity.
“The example from a lot of my older cousins and my uncles is really good,” he said. “It’s a fantastic and beautiful experience to be a part of. I love the big family experience.”
While in college, he agreed to take part in a seminary visit, mostly because he was part of a discernment group. He didn’t think much of it; after all, he was dating a young lady at the time. But he wanted to be a leader for the younger men who attended, so he followed through on the commitment.
“I was thinking, ‘no, this isn’t what this is going to be,’” he said with a laugh. “I’m just here for the other guys.”
But halfway through the visit, he received a text from his girlfriend, asking jokingly if he’d become a priest yet.
“I was just like, ‘no,’ and she said, ‘well darn, because you’d be a good one,’” Richter said. “That was kind of a freeing moment.”
Still though, there wasn’t that instance of clarity for Richter, but instead, a more gradual realization that he should apply to enter seminary, so following his sophomore year of college, he took that important step. Once he made that decision – and really committed to the idea – the excitement and anticipation grew.
“There was so much peace about the decision and prayer,” he said. “This is what it is, and it’s going to be great.”
While discerning at IHMS, Richter is mindful of something a pastor from his home parish once told him.
“You’re a son before you’re a father, and especially at this level (of formation), it’s about learning to let yourself be loved,” he said. “I think that’s the lesson I’ve really had to learn, that I can’t really do much of anything to earn it. I’ve had to sit with and accept my identity as a beloved son.
“It’s taken almost a year of just slowly working through and breaking down your preset ideas of who God is, and your image of God has to be broken down to realize that He is all-loving, and you’re loved no matter where you’re at or where you’re from.”
As it is, Richter, though considered a senior, will return to IHMS to finish his studies at Saint Mary’s University and IHMS. But he’s not complaining. IHMS has been a special experience that he’s all too happy to continue.
“The fraternity and community of the seminary is unlike any other,” he said. “The authenticity of men when the central focus is the same, when you’re all coming to love Christ in a deeper way – the depth of relationships that comes from that is just incredible. … Being around these guys has helped mold and shape me.”
~ Ryan Henry, IHMS Communications