My name is Lori Doerneman. I live in the Wichita Diocese. I have been married to my husband Russ for 30 years and we have eight children.
Four years ago our son Mitchell announced that he wanted to enter the seminary. He was a senior in high school.
My thoughts at that time:
I think every Catholic mama probably has this secret desire for her sons to be priests. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna raise a son that decided to lay down his life for Jesus Christ? Sign me up for that.
So I was a bit confused by the storm of emotions that rolled through me after Mitch announced his decision.
The Mama Bear within was speaking up: I wanted to protect my young.
I thought of all of the stresses in a priest’s life. They are expected to manage a parish. It’s not just about serving, it’s about MANAGING.
There has to be loneliness. Isolation. And...no sex.
All of a sudden, I didn’t want my kid to even consider the priesthood.
So I took all of my emotional upheaval and went on a long bike ride at Sedgwick County Park in Wichita.
As I rode, I allowed myself to think ahead eight years. I allowed myself to think of my son as a Roman Catholic priest.
I began to SOB. With sunglasses shielding my eyes, I bawled like a baby. I cried out to Mary, my dearest mother. What was being expected of Mitch?
“JESUS! This is my son! I am not sure I want to give him to you so fully.”
I allowed my heart to grieve. I allowed my emotions and feelings to be vented, out loud, to all of heaven. I rode and cried for a long time.
Then a new thought came to me as I pedaled around a curve:
I am Hannah.
(Hannah is a woman in the Old Testament that didn’t have children. She cried out to God and said that if He would give her a child, she would give the child back to Him. God heard her prayer. Hannah gave birth to a son, Samuel. After he was weaned, she let him be raised by the high priest in total service to God.)
I stopped riding my bike, got my phone out and texted Mitchell. I asked him what name he had taken for CONFIRMATION.
(Confirmation is a sacrament where teens confirm their faith in God. They choose a saint they want to model their life after and they take their name as a new identity. It becomes their second middle name.)
He texted back:
I lost it fully, completely and totally.
After a couple of minutes I got back on my bike, knowing that God was actually asking me for something.
While pedaling under the canopy of green trees, I said to all of heaven:
I give you Mitchell Paul Samuel Doerneman.
I went home and got out the book our diocesan vocation director gave us parents, A Priest in the Family, by Fr. Brett Brannen. Through the book, Fr. Brannen answers the biggest objection we have as parents: we think our son will be unhappy as a celibate.
“In my experience, when parents worry that their son will not be happy as a priest, they usually are inferring that he would be happier in marriage. The statistics do not support that assertion. Half of marriages end in divorce, and many of those who remain married report dissatisfaction in their marriages. Thus the statistical chances for happiness and fulfillment are actually MUCH BETTER in priesthood. The vast majority of priests are happy and would choose priesthood again.”
He explains that priests are happy because they are committed to a mission bigger than themselves and the mission has eternal consequences.
We all want to do something extraordinarily meaningful. Priests do that on a daily basis.
It was those four years ago I felt great anguish over the idea of Mitch entering the seminary for the reasons I outlined above.
As the priest scandals broke in recent months, I have felt a different, stronger anguish. The mama bear in me came out. I wanted to protect my son.
I poured out my heart to my husband and he gave me much hope. This was such a gift to my soul that I asked my husband to share his thoughts with you on our podcast.
It’s a confusing time. But our God is pretty big. And I trust.
Listen to today's episode AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!
Mitchell Paul Samuel Doerneman, I love you and support you on this journey.
When you were home this week for Bishop Gerber’s funeral, I could see how much you have matured and grown over the past years at Conception Seminary. You are indeed becoming a man of GOD.
Yes, these times are confusing. They are intense.
Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Stay close to Our Lady.
We are proud of you, son.
Here's the book I mentioned in today's post: