Joel KolbJoel Kolb

Configuration II

Parish: St. Frances Cabrini, West Bend

Seminary: Saint Francis de Sales

Birthday: February 23

Intercessor: St. Athanasius

Tell us your vocation story.

I graduated from Notre Dame and subsequently commissioned as a Naval Officer, of which I recently finished my five-year service obligation. Upon moving to Florida for my first assignment, I recall the night before reporting to my ship pondering how I wanted to define the next chapter of my life. After a brief silence, the answer came: “as a Catholic.” This moment of grace sparked a renewed interest in my Faith, which led me to spend most of my free time learning about its deeper truths and history.

While on a deployment to the Arabian Gulf in the summer of 2016, I remember saying aloud to a friend for the first time that I might want to be a priest. This thought may have been latent for some time, but it surfaced in the midst of a period where I witnessed sailors on the ship spend port visits in search of fleeting pleasures, which helped me see more acutely the need for others to be introduced to Christ and His Church. I felt a desire to be the one to introduce them. Later that year, on taking advice from some friends, I decided to more actively discern another vocation, marriage, by dating a woman who had become a good friend. We helped each other grow in our faith lives, and through prayer determined to part ways so that I could return to discerning the seminary.

I moved and travelled often in the Navy. Attending Mass and reflecting during Adoration instilled in me peace, consistency, and a feeling of home. Bible studies in both Mississippi and Florida kept encouraging me to follow this calling, as I made faith-filled friends who provided good counsel. I noticed, too, that I was by far the happiest and most outgoing in these spiritual and social settings. Encouragement from many, especially Fr. Luke Strand, helped me greatly as he would call on the phone to see how I was doing. This was essential as I was discerning the seminary while living mostly in the South, far away from Milwaukee. At some point, attending the seminary no longer seemed daunting, but rather the natural step to truly discerning God’s will for my life. I finished my last year in the Navy in anticipation of a privileged experience to wholeheartedly discern God’s call in the seminary.

What is the greatest challenge facing a man considering the seminary?

The fear of, and actuality of being misunderstood by friends, family, and peers. We are inculcated to make important decisions based on a cost-benefit analysis and encouraged to pursue paths which have “worked” for others in the past. The element of mystery in discernment can make it hard to articulate the desire to enter the seminary to the average person in a world which largely rejects the supernatural. As such, one can feel either isolated or seen as strange. This can be discouraging.

What is your favorite Psalm verse and why?

Psalm 118:1 – “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures forever.” This Psalm reminds me to be grateful and of the radical nature of God’s love for us. I often need to sit with these thoughts, as I am prone to forget them.

What are your favorite activities outside of the seminary?

I enjoy many things, including reading, especially First Things magazine, as well as playing tennis, golf, basketball, cards, board games, and going camping.

Where do you like to go pray?

Usually in small chapels in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Where do you do your best studying?

I intend on spending time in the library, as this worked well for me in the latter half of my undergraduate studies.

Which saint should people ask to intercede for your vocation?

St. Athanasius.

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