By SUZANNE KOZIATEK
For Dennis Trickey, God’s call came in stillness.
Trickey, then a rising junior at Mater Dei Catholic High School, was attending a summer retreat aimed at vocations. As an altar server, Eucharistic minister and lector at his home parish in Pierron, he’d often been told by parishioners and priests that he’d make a good priest, but he hadn’t thought much about it.
But at the retreat, he had time, and solitude to think about the idea.
“It changed my life around,” Trickey says.
“One night, I had a really powerful experience. I went to reconciliation, which was held in the Adoration Chapel. I knelt to say my penance and looked up at the crucifix. I just felt God’s immense love for me.”
That encompassing love has transformed Trickey, who graduated May 24 from Mater Dei. This fall, he plans to attend Marian University in Indianapolis, preparing for further study at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary.
The news is rippling throughout his community – in his parish, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Pierron, among his friends and teachers at Mater Dei and to the kids he teaches and talks to about his decision.
“Since he spoke to the students here, I’ve been getting more questions about (vocations),” says Marilyn Bruggemann, coordinator of the PSR program at St. Rose Catholic Church in St. Rose, where Trickey also teaches third-graders for an hour each school morning. “If I had known it would have had the impact it did, I would have had him come in earlier in the year.”
After Trickey’s experience at the retreat, he got in touch with the vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield, where his parish is located. He was introduced to a book, “To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide to Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood,” by Father Brett Brannen.
“At that point, I didn’t really know if I wanted to go into the seminary,” he says. “I read that the rosary is a great prayer to pray to ask God for vocations. So I started praying the rosary every day, to ask God for my vocation.
“And slowly but surely, I started feeling like I wanted to go to seminary.”
His parents have supported his choice whole-heartedly, he says.
“Someone at my parish asked my mom how she felt about it,” Trickey says.
“I’m an only child, and she said to my mom, ‘I feel sorry for you, that you aren’t going to have any grandchildren.’ My mom said, ‘God’s will for Dennis is God’s will for me.’”
As Trickey started telling friends and teachers at Mater Dei, he says they were similarly supportive.
“I was kind of surprised – I thought they’d think, ‘Going to seminary, becoming a priest, who wants to do that?’ It was awesome to see how supportive everyone is.’”
Mater Dei Principal Dennis Litteken has noticed that support as well. “It was really refreshing to see the way our kids accepted his choice and are helping to strengthen it.”
He says Trickey is the fourth student he can remember in his 33 years at Mater Dei to enter the seminary after graduation. Trickey’s choice did not surprise Litteken: “He’s been very authentic all the way through school; he’s definitely lived a life worthy of that choice.”
This year, Trickey was chosen for the Bishop’s Discipleship Award, which goes to one senior from each of the Belleville diocesan high schools. At home, he’s a pontifical server, one of a group of who take turns serving at Mass for the bishop for the Diocese of Springfield.
Trickey is also among a group of Mater Dei students who go to St. Rose School to teach PSR every weekday morning. St. Rose Catholic Church has a unique relationship with the public school in St. Rose, allowing PSR classes there for an hour before school officially starts. Bruggemann says it has been “a blessing” to have Trickey teaching the third-graders.
“He’s made the class fun for the kids – whenever there’s a test, he puts it into a game form,” she says. “It’s really fun for them and yet they’re still studying.”
She asked him to speak to her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students about his vocation in early May.
“He started with his life experience, telling them that he wanted to be a baseball player,” she says. “He made a remark about how he was playing ball all the time, but he got hurt, and each time he got hurt, he’d think that maybe God isn’t calling him to play baseball.
“That really registered with the kids.”
She said Trickey gave them all rosaries and asked them to pray for their own vocations in life.
Angie Schlemme, who is the seventh-grade PSR teacher at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Aviston, also asked Trickey to speak to her students. She says her kids were struck by the fact that he had the same kinds of interests that they did – baseball, fishing, hunting.
“He’s a young guy, he’s from their area, they could say, ‘He’s just like me,’” Schlemme says.
She believes that it’s important for seminarians and for others to have these conversations with young men and women.
“Sometimes, they need to hear it – ‘you would be a great priest,’ or ‘you could be a good sister,’” she says. “We pray for it, but we don’t always tell young men and women that.”
Trickey agrees, and he encourages those his age to take those conversations to heart.
“Have an open mind about everything,” he says. “Don’t disregard those comments. If you don’t think it’s right for you right now, think about it every once in a while. You’ll know when God’s calling you.”