Zachary Peterson and Matthew Wiering had felt the call to the priesthood for a long time, but both fought it.
Peterson was "born and raised" at Holy Redeemer and attended Holy Redeemer School in Marshall.
"I really felt God calling me to do this over a number of years," he admitted. "And the more I said no, the louder He seemed to call."
Zachary Peterson, left, celebrates the Holy Eucharist with Bishop John LeVoir during his ordination Nov. 7.
Matthew Wiering, far right, was ordained by Archbishop Robert Carlson Oct. 8 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy.
Wiering grew up on a farm outside of Tyler and graduated from RTR High School.
"I always say that I did not choose the priesthood but that God chose me," Wiering said. "For many years I have felt this call from God, to serve Him in a special way by being a priest. While I felt God's invitation to be a priest for a long time, I certainly did not always want to accept it."
While the two men resisted, God kept calling, they said.
"All throughout college at Southwest, I went to daily Mass," Peterson said. "After college, I couldn't go and realized how much I relied on it."
Even as Peterson was saying no, God was preparing him.
"For a long time, I felt I wouldn't be able to get up in front of people and give a homily and over the course of time and courses in college, I learned the necessary skills to get up in front of people and give public presentations," Peterson said.
"In high school if anyone ever asked me if I had thought about becoming a priest, I would answer with a firm and passionate 'no.' But I just wasn't very open then," Wiering said. "It took me much prayer and discernment before I began to experience a change of heart and to desire the priesthood. I began to realize, only through God's grace, what a beautiful gift it is - to live for God alone and to give my life in service of His people. Once I realized that God was really calling me, how could I say 'no?'"
The two men have taken a step on their way to becoming priests as they were recently ordained as deacons in the Catholic Church.
"It's the last important step before entering the priesthood, the biggest step," said Peterson, who was ordained Nov. 7 in his home church of Holy Redeemer in Marshall.
"It's necessary to be ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church before one can be ordained a priest," said Wiering, who was ordained Oct. 8 in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy.
"It's actually at a man's diaconate ordination that he promises to be obedient to the bishop of his diocese (in my case to the Bishop of New Ulm) and to remain celibate for the rest of his life," Wiering said. "So we're talking about very serious promises, similar in gravity to the promises that spouses make on their wedding day."
While the two are in different places physically, they both know what is ahead for them.
"For the rest of this academic year, I'm in Sleepy Eye, doing an internship at St. Mary's Parish," said Peterson, who graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2002 with a degree in elementary education. He teaches at the K-12 school and assists at the church with homilies and visiting the home-bound and sick. "They are extremely happy to have me," he said.
"In August, I'll go back to seminary at St. Meinrad, Ind.," said Peterson, who has a year left to study after his internship. His ordination to become a priest is scheduled for June 4, 2011.
Wiering is half a world away, in the heart of Roman Catholicism.
"I live at the Pontifical North American College, which is operated by the Catholic bishops of the United States," Wiering said. "The College is located in Rome within the territory of Vatican City. About 225 men, from all parts of the United States, are currently living here, all of whom are studying to become Catholic priests. I am studying dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
"I wound up here because then-Bishop (John) Nienstedt, the previous bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, asked me to come here in order to study to become a priest," Wiering said. "Mostly, I pray and study, both of which are essential for the period of formation that a man must go through in order to be ordained a Catholic priest. I also work as a chaplain for the University of St. Thomas's study abroad program. When I am not doing these things I am probably enjoying one of Italy's greatest treasures, pasta."
"Provided that I pass my classes this year and the seminary evaluation this spring, I will be ordained a priest in July 2010 in New Ulm," Wiering added. "After that I will return to Rome for one last year of academic studies in theology, after which I will return to the Diocese of New Ulm for full-time ministry."
Peterson said it's been a while since a local boy went into the priesthood.
"The last we can remember is Monsignor Bob Wyffels, celebrating his 50th year. He's currently the pastor in Morgan," he said.
While the two men may have originally resisted a call to be priest, they can't envision another vocation.
".. since I finally began to embrace this vocation and to appreciate it as a real gift, I have been very happy, in fact I cannot imagine being happier. I guess that's what happens when we listen to and accept God's call," Wiering said.