By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
Moorhead – Since receiving, and resisting, the call to become a priest in his early teen years, Michael Arey has been on a long, transformative journey. He took a big step forward during his ordination as a transitional deacon June 16 at his home parish, St. Francis de Sales, Moorhead.
“My hope is that the ordination in all its beauty and truth brings people closer to Christ and his Church. I pray the Holy Spirit melts my heart with the love of God on the day I become his servant,” Deacon Arey said.
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner welcomed all those gathered for the celebration, saying, “We thank our loving God this day. We rely on the help of our Lord God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, for what we are about to do. By God’s grace may Michael be a holy and good deacon.”
Deacon Arey felt tugged toward priesthood when he was 12 or 13, but ignored it to pursue his own agenda.
“After high school, I left the faith for many years, but for those years I was lacking true peace in my heart. I experienced many things in life, but still a void remained in my soul,” he said.
His parents, Beverly and Stefan Arey, knew of his calling and his struggles, and say they couldn’t be prouder of him.
The Areys adopted Michael through Catholic Charities in St. Paul.
“From the moment we held him, we knew we had a special child and the greatest gift from God,” Beverly said. “He loved being in church as a little boy, and was touched to tears at times during special rites, such as baptisms.”
Stefan said he had a feeling his son was called to the priesthood in his early teen years.
“He tried to stay away from it until five years ago,” Stefan said.
“He would tell us at least once a year he was being called by Jesus,” said Beverly. “He wanted marriage and a family very much, but nothing made him happy or at peace. Things were not working out in those areas.”
This lack of peace led Deacon Arey to read philosophy and visit churches. As he began reaching out to God, the familiar pull toward the priesthood returned. Events following the sudden death of Deacon Arey’s 21-year-old cousin catapulted his discernment forward.
Deacon Arey said, “Two weeks after my cousin’s death, I was lying in bed at my house on a Sunday night around 9:30 p.m., and I saw a vision of Christ on the cross. He lifted his head and I saw his lips move and he said two words: ‘Follow me.’ At that moment I also saw what appeared to be my cousin to the right of Christ, and I said aloud, ‘Ok Lord, I am done running from you.’”
Beverly remembers when Michael called to say he was entering the seminary. She said in a matter of months, he left his job, sold his home and started studies at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“I entered seminary thirsty for God; I wanted to know him and know everything,” said Deacon Arey. “The intellectual formation at St. Paul Seminary has enhanced my love for our faith and the more I know the more I want to know. My thirst is quenched, while at the same time, I continue to thirst for him who called me.”
“It has been such a beautiful journey with Michael these past years,” said Beverly. “We see such peace and happiness in him. We have learned much from him and we have become stronger in our Catholic faith.”
Deacon Tim Cone, a recently-ordained transitional deacon for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, is one of Deacon Arey’s classmates.
“I’ve been so blown away by seeing a transformation in him from when we knew each other that first year versus now,” said Deacon Cone. “He’s come alive in his faith in a way that’s humbling for me to see, to see the power of Our Lord at work in his life, it totally transformed him ... his love for Our Lord will transform anyone he comes in contact with, as it should for all of us.”
Deacon Arey will serve at St. Philip, Bemidji, for the summer before returning for his final year of seminary this fall.
He looks forward to administering the sacraments of baptism and marriage, as well as bringing Viaticum to the dying and conducting funeral rites.
“In my younger years, I resisted God’s calling, but in my resistance I was resisting the ability to serve him, and as an ordained servant of God and his Church I am filled with the peace and joy of Christ,” Deacon Arey said.
To view additional images from Deacon Arey's ordination to the transitional diaconate CLICK HERE.