By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office has a new leader who wants people to know life as a priest is beautiful and “filled with meaning.”
Father Michael T. Wimsatt, a 34-year-old priest ordained in 2010, said he began his new position as director of the Vocation Office on Sept. 1 with a focus on conveying hope.
“I take it as a top priority to relay a sense of hope to guys in formation and in discernment,” he said during an interview in his office at the Maloney Center in late September.
“The challenges (in the lives of priests) are obvious and they get their due attention,” he noted. “But we leave out the hope. I want to tell people face to face that it is great being a priest. It’s a beautiful life filled with meaning.”
He succeeds Father Jeffrey P. Shooner, who now serves as pastor of St. Patrick Church and continues to serve as the archdiocese’s vicar for priests.
Father Shooner said his sucessor is “a talented and capable young priest” who marries seemingly opposing forces — the contemporary and the traditional.
“I think Father Michael has a great gift for connecting with people and relating well to them,” Father Shooner said. “That shines through in his relationships with the men who are already in seminary and men who are in discernment.
“Within his own person, there’s a real dialogue between the rich tradition of the church and the contemporary needs of society and young men, in particular, who are considering priesthood,” Father Shooner said.
Father Wimsatt formerly served as the associate director of seminarians in the Vocation Office while studying at Catholic University of America. He has nearly completed a doctoral degree in systemic theology which he began two years ago. He has also served as chaplain of Bethlehem High School, Bardstown, Ky., which currently has three graduates in seminary.
He attended St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore and earned a bachelor’s degree at Bellarmine University in 2002. He studied English and theology at Bellarmine.
Father Wimsatt also serves as the spiritual director for TEC (Teens and 20s Encounter Christ) and is in residence at Holy Trinity Church.
Because he’s spent so much of his life prior to and since ordination in a school setting, Father Wimsatt said, “I feel like I can still see things from a seminarian’s perspective. I think that will be helpful.”
Still, he isn’t relying on his own experience to make him an expert. Father Wimsatt said his first steps as the director of vocations will be focused on educating himself about what’s been done already, what’s being done now and what needs seem to “call out the most.”
Father Shooner said the Vocation Office, under Father Wimsatt’s direction, is “poised” for growth.
“We’ve been consistent the last number of years with men coming into formation, and blessed by those who are being ordained,” he said. “I think that the state of vocations in the archdiocese is poised for another period of growth in men responding to God’s call and entering seminary.”
He said that’s happening primarily “because of the dedication of resources from the archdiocese that is represented by Father Michael being in the Vocation Office full time.”
The archdiocese currently has 16 men in formation for the priesthood. Four, who have been ordained deacons, are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in 2015.