By Sadie Stresky
For some men, entering the priesthood means joining a brotherhood built on faith and virtue. Others take the idea one step further, on a literal note, and join the priesthood alongside their actual brother. Such is the case with three seminarians and one alumnus at the Saint Vincent Seminary. The Gossett brothers, Michael and Matthew, as well as James Schaeper, whose brother, Lawrence, recently graduated from the seminary, discuss what it is like to share the journey into priesthood with one of their own family members.
The Gossett brothers were raised devout Catholics, attending Catholic schools from kindergarten to high school. “My mom would make us pray before bed,” Michael, the older brother, remembers. After high school, Michael attended a Methodist college. His roommate frequently invited him to Christian Bible studies. It was there that he began to realize how much the Catholic faith meant to him.
“The others there assumed that because I was Catholic, I didn’t take my faith as seriously as them,” said Michael, “I had to defend my beliefs. As a result, I came to embrace my faith and learned to love and appreciate it.”
Michael studied communication in college, but he did not feel fulfilled. It was on the March for Life one year that he realized his true calling: “My group was visiting the National Shrine and I felt so excited to be Catholic.” He talked to his brother and several priests and decided that he was called to join the seminary.
On the other hand, Matthew knew since high school that he may one day want to become a priest. The Gossett brothers hail from Steubenville, Ohio, and the Franciscan community always had a positive impact on Matthew. He put all thoughts of priesthood aside in college, however, when he started dating. Matthew pursued an education in music, earning his master’s degree in music performance. Like his older brother, Matthew felt his degree was not enough and saved his money to live in Germany. Armed with Saint Faustina’s Diary as a guide, Matthew “rediscovered his relationship with Christ.”
Matthew took it as a sign from God that he had seen the world, and now it was time to take a step in a new direction. He spent his second year of graduate school focusing on Christ, becoming highly involved in campus ministry. After talking to a number of priests, Matthew knew he needed to follow his instinct and fully discern the priesthood.
Lawrence and James Schaeper, who go by Larry and Jim, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Larry, the oldest of three sons, graduated from Saint Vincent Seminary and was ordained in May 2009. Jim is the youngest of his brothers and is new to the Seminary this year. Like the Gossetts, the Schaepers grew up in a strongly Catholic environment.
Prior to becoming a priest, Larry attended Xavier University and majored in finance. He then worked at Fifth Third Bank in the Merchant Services department, but after a decade of work, he wanted to do something more gratifying with his life in a way that actively served God. He remembered the pastor at Saint Vivian, his home parish, and was inspired by his love for his ministry.
Larry read about the lives of saints, especially Padre Pio and Saint John Vianney. Says Larry, “I was inspired by their love for the salvation of souls, their ministry in the confessional, bringing thousands of souls to Jesus Christ. I could see myself following in their footsteps.” When the time was right, he applied to and was accepted with the Diocese of Cincinnati. Five years later, he took a leave of absence from the seminary in order to discern more about his vocation and acquire greater leadership skills. He moved to South Carolina to live with Jim. Both eventually moved to Kentucky.
Once Larry felt certain about his vocation, he applied with the Diocese of Covington and came to Saint Vincent Seminary for his studies. Larry recently became the pastoral administrator at his parish in the Diocese of Covington.
Jim was greatly influenced by his brother’s decision to become a priest, but he had his own personal experiences with God to help guide him to where he is today. A few years ago, Jim experienced intense back pain, and doctors found tumors in his spinal cord. After recovering from the first of two major spinal cord surgeries, Jim felt what he describes as an extremely peaceful feeling in his body. He was certain that it was the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Last year, Jim started to hear God’s calling to be a priest, and he knew he was meant to become just that. At the time, Jim was working as a chemist and struggled with leaving his stable career for priesthood. Nevertheless, he knew what he needed to do. Apparently, he was not the only one who knew; everyone from family to friends and coworkers frequently asked Jim if he had considered becoming a priest. With the guidance of three different priests, Jim took the first major step and enrolled at Saint Vincent Seminary. Since his brother graduated before he arrived, Jim is hopeful of upholding the new family legacy. Jim says about his brother, “Larry is an inspiration and a role model to me. He is one of the humblest people I know.”
SERVING THE LORD
As for the Gossetts, both Michael and Matthew feel lucky to be studying at Saint Vincent at the same time and enjoy being seminarians together. Michael never expected his younger brother to follow in his footsteps, but he is happy that he can join Matthew in serving the Lord. Matthew is grateful to have his brother to guide him and promises, “He doesn’t tell me too much; that way I have no preconceived notions of anything.”
By attending Saint Vincent together, the Gossett brothers have grown much closer. Michael and Matthew agree that it was difficult to relate to their other friends when they decided to join the seminary. Their relationship deepened as they learned that they share the same faith and the ultimate goal of being a priest.
Although their family jokes that there will not be any Gossett grandchildren running around one day, besides their sister’s children, their parents are supportive of their decisions to become priests. Matthew concluded by saying, “Our parents encourage us to pray and be open to God’s will. All of us feel so blessed.”
Jim and Larry have always been extremely close, but now Jim can better relate to his oldest brother. He says their family is proud that they are answering God’s call, and by following His will, they will be happy. Larry says of his brother, “I’m very happy for him. It was a difficult decision for him to make, but he felt the Lord calling him to the priesthood, and the Diocese of Covington and Saint Vincent are tremendous opportunities for discernment.”
Both sets of brothers come from different backgrounds, and each of them has his own unique vocation story to tell. One thing they share is their love of God above all, and they are looking forward to spending more time at Saint Vincent.
Surely Matthew, Michael, and Jim can agree with Larry when he says, “Saint Vincent Seminary is a place that overflows with the love of Jesus Christ and the generous spirit and support of the Benedictine community, making it a wonderful place for the discernment of a vocation to the priesthood.”