This may be one of the most unusual vocation stories you’ll ever encounter.
Like most seminarians, the Rev. Dennis Saran could tick off the many influences that bolstered and shaped him in his yearslong path to the priesthood. There was his Catholic upbringing, of course. His teacher-priests and fellow seminarians. Long-dead theologians whose writings and ruminations have spoken to him through the ages. But Saran includes among them three influences few seminarians can claim: his adult daughters, two of whom have charted a notably different path. They are converts to Islam. “They actually helped me in my journey,” said Saran, whose letters to and from the two daughters during their college years in Madison often explored religious themes. “They’d say, ‘Well, Dad, have you read Thomas Merton?’ or they’d send me titles of books to read,” said Saran. “They would encourage me because I think they were along their own spiritual journeys as well.” Saran’s daughters — Amanda, Michelle and Kelly Saran — were among the family and friends who filled the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Saturday for the ordination of Saran and Venezuelan-born Deacon Mauricio Fernández-Boscán. “I really just want to support him …for what he decides is right,” said 26-year-old Kelly, who with her oldest sister, Amanda, converted to Islam in 2009. “In the end, we’re all just seeking the truth,” Kelly said. “And if he can touch people with God’s message, then there’s a purpose.” Saran, 59, is thought to be the first father ordained in the 171-year history of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.