"You too, go into my vineyard" (Matt. 20:4).
Jesus asks this of each of us and is calling you and me to become a holy and fruitful people. I have decided to answer Christ's calling for my life, and as a result of much discernment, I am now preparing to be a priest for the Diocese of Buffalo.
My story begins with my loving family. I was born to Luke and Pamela Uebler in July of 1990. I also have a younger brother Kyle and a younger sister Sara, whom I admire and enjoy spending time with. Father Michael Uebler, my uncle, baptized me, and I like to tell him that, so far, it's working.
Although my mother is Protestant, my family decided to raise me Catholic. Dad took my brother, my sister, my grandfather and me to Mass every Sunday while we attended St. James School in Depew. I later chose to go to Canisius High School in Buffalo.
I considered myself an ordinary kid growing up. I was healthy, played a few sports in school, had pretty good grades, had a good group of friends, and dated for a while. Yet, when it came to religion classes, it seemed that I was especially gifted. Just as every student has his favorite subject, mine was religion.
Even my teachers wondered where I had "learned all these things about God." As I look back I can say that, although I didn't have much of a faith life, the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday has indeed been the bedrock of my faith and has truly helped me to come to know God. It was enough to intrigue others. My peers jokingly called me Father Luke, and while I laughed too, I initially pushed away thoughts of the priesthood as it wasn't something I wanted to even consider at the time.
As high school began nearing completion, I needed to consider what I wanted to do with my life, so that I could apply to the right colleges. I had to ask myself important questions about my dreams and aspirations.
I originally thought of teaching or entering the computer science field to become a programmer like my father. However, it would be naïve to say that I sought to answer such questions alone. There were many people who were looking out for me, not only encouraging me to reach my full potential as an individual, but also challenging me to make my Catholic faith a part of whatever decisions I would come to make.
I am ever grateful to Michael Morcelle, who affirmed me for who I was and who provided me with opportunities to move deeper into my faith, even sponsoring my attendance at the Diocese of Buffalo's annual Christian Leadership Institute. In my scouting career, I had the pleasure to work with Koreen Scalfaro, who walked with me as I sought to earn the Catholic religious emblems of Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII.
She gave me the tools for discernment and taught me that it's alright to work hard and sacrifice for your goals. When my family moved to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Springbrook, Ron Adamczak reached out to me, a new member, so that I might feel like I belonged. He encouraged me to become more involved. I asked him to be my confirmation sponsor.
Father James Walter, my pastor at St. Vincent's, made a confession to us who were preparing for confirmation. He explained that it wasn't until after many years of priesthood did he discover how much God truly loved him and that, if God loved him, how much He must love each of us as well.
To that point in my life, I knew all these things about God in my head, but I didn't really know God in my heart. Father Walter taught me that our faith is all about a relationship with God and I resolved then and there to explore and live out this reality.
When I started to really evaluate what the rest of my life would entail, the thought of priesthood with these new considerations returned. I decided to give it a good look, and as I did so, those around me who had subtly encouraged me to consider the priesthood before, now supported me more so than ever saying, "I knew you had this in you. This is the right path for you."
At the same time, there was a great sense of peace and joy in my heart. Often, many will say when they are considering their potential career that they have settled for it because they want to help people. You can help people as a doctor or as a teacher or as an engineer. When people ask why I am in the seminary and why I want to be a priest, I can tell them it is because I learned that God loves me and I want to share that loving relationship with others. I feel this is the greatest way that I can be of service.
When I think about vocations, I often imagine a giant windmill. The function of the windmill, of course, is to harness the wind's energy for a given purpose, but in order to accomplish this, the blades must first be pointed in the direction of the wind; otherwise the fan will not turn. It is the tail, if you will, that orients the blades in the right direction.
So too is it in our spiritual lives. We are all to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit and allow His mighty wind to energize our lives, but we can't do that unless we orient ourselves accordingly. One's vocation does just that.
In a manner of speaking, all of us are ordinary windmills, but God's movement in each of our lives is unique and personal. God calls us by name, and that is extraordinary. I love being an ordinary guy with an extraordinary calling.
Although the Christian lifestyle is not without its challenges, I can tell you that nothing else will energize and inspire you like saying "Yes" to God's plan by orienting your life in the direction of that call, whatever it may be. I have had countless happy and joy-filled moments because of my calling and I eagerly look forward to serving as a priest one day. May you also discover the joy of God's plan for you.
Luke Uebler has completed six years of seminary formation between St. Mark Seminary, Erie, Pa., and Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, and is currently on his pastoral year assignment at St. Mary of Lourdes Parish, Bemus Point and Mayville.