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How grieving the loss of his children led this father to the priesthood

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 07/28/15


And that’s not all.

A remarkable vocation story, and a remarkable vocation, from The Cody Enterprisein Wyoming. Among other things, it gives a powerful sense of what it means to minister in some of the more remote corners of the country:

In the New Testament, Paul asks the Romans, “And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News.’” For the Rev. Philip Vaske of Cody, he would travel a circuitous route: South Dakota farm boy, wanna-be Wyoming rancher, diesel mechanic, member of the National Guard, husband, father, divorcee and student.

But suffering the loss of his two children in a house fire would – nine years later – lead Vaske to follow Jesus as a Catholic priest. Serving as parochial vicar at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Cody, he caries the Good News to missions in Meeteetse and Clark.

“I kind of took the long way around,” Vaske said before Mass on a recent Sunday. “I finally quit saying ‘no’ to God’s call … So I decided to check it out.”

With two years of pre-theology at a Benedictine monastery in Missouri and two more years at Sacred Heart Seminary south of Milwaukee, Wis., he was ordained June 2, 2006.

Saying “yes” to God’s call would help Vaske bear the loss of his son, 5, and daughter, 14, by asking God to carry the burden of his grief.

“It wasn’t until I could say, ‘Ya know, God, this is too much for me. Please take this.’ And, just like that, I could breathe.

“Of course, I would give it back, take it back, give it back, take it back. But again, it’s a healing process.”

His lifetime experience coupled with a degree in social work help him relate to parishioners, to have walked similar miles in their shoes.

Joining Vaske in his journey is Deacon Gerald Boydston, also of Cody.

For him, he gave a one-word answer – God – as what brought him to serve as deacon for St. Anthony’s mission churches in Clark and Meeteetse.

Read it all.

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