Generation Christ – Ann Arbor at 530 Elizabeth Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 US – Father McGivney House
The Father McGivney House: Thanks to faithful Knights and priests, young men have a place to discern God’s call
by Bob Horning
This article originally appeared in Columbia magazine, May 2009, and is reprinted here with permission from the Knights of Columbus, New Haven, Conn., and Bob Horning, Ann Arbor, MI
When Zach Mabee, Nathan Haverland and Nate Dreyer were living at the Father McGivney House for men’s disceroment, they would wake up, go across the street to the rectory chapel and say morning prayers with the parish priests there before Mass. Those first members of the house are all in seminary now. Over the past two years, 13 more men – four of whom also plan on studying for the priesthood – have called the Father McGivney House home.
The Father McGivney House was conceived in 2006 as a joint effort between St. Thomas the
Apostle Parish and St. Thomas the Apostle Council 587 in Ann Arbor, Mich. It serves as a house of spiritual discernment for male parishioners and local university students who are contemplating a vocation to the priesthood.
When the property came up for sale in 2006, the members of Council 587 decided to invest in it as a show of support for vocations. They are also hoping to sell their own property to purchase the house outright.
Mike Rohde, chancellor of the council and president of the holding company for the Father McGivney House, explained, “Any money made on rent goes to support the discernment program, vocations or charity. It’s a great deal for the men living there since they would have to pay rent somewhere anyway.”
Living at the house allows the men to discern the direction of one’s life and to receive spiritual direction from local parish priests. Many who live at the house are altar servers, attend daily Mass and join the priests in praying the Liturgy of the Hours as their schedules allow. The men also meet with the priests every Tuesday for dinner, to catch up and to hear about different aspects of priestly life. Formation talks and small group meetings after dinner also take place on alternating weeks.
Another part of the commitment for house members is involvement in Generation Christ, a parish outreach program for young adults at St. Thomas. Some of the men at the house assume leadership roles. They greet new people, organize the meeting space and perform other outreach duties. More than 50 young adults come to Generation Christ each Sunday for an hour of prayer and music, a meditation often given by a guest speaker and Eucharistic adoration.
Father Canoy attributes an increase in vocations at the parish to Generation Christ. “It serves as a feeder for the McGivney House and for a similar house for women,” he said. “The meditations have also given discernment support to the men and women from our parish now at seminary or in a religious order who haven’t lived in one of the two houses.”
Former McGivney House resident Zach Mabee was confirmed into the Catholic Church in 2006. While attending religious education classes at St. Thomas, he read about the priesthood and began to discern a vocation. He discussed the idea with several priests, who invited him. to join two other men at the house.
“It was a good, strong setting in which I could grow with brothers in the Catholic faith,” said Mahee. “I loved having access to the rectory chapel to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. When I moved in, I was confident I would eventually enter seminary, but living there strengthened and confirmed the idea.”
Mabee is now in his first year of pre-theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and is studying for the Diocese of Lansing.
One of Mabee’s housemates that first year, Nate Haverland, had also considered the priesthood. He was earning his master’s degree in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan and heard about the house through Generation Christ.
“I explored my options while at the McGivney House” said Haverland. “Spending a lot of time in prayer, having a priest as spiritual director and talking about the possibility of entering the priesthood with priests and other guys was helpful.”
Haverland, who is a member of St. Benedict’s College Council 4708 in Atchison,. Kan., is now studying to be a priest for the Archdiocese of Kansas City.
LEADERSHIP AND BROTHERHOOD
Andy Forbing, a current resident at the Father McGivney House, plans to join the Eastern Province of the Dominicans in the fall. He, too, learned about holy orders while studying to join the Catholic Church, and living at the McGivney House helped him with his discernment.
“I learned what it means to live with committed Christians all with one goal of following Christ,” said Forbing. “Because there were many different personalities, my patience, humility and my desire to serve others was tested. You might say it was good for my ego.”
Haverland agrees that such an environment is conducive to discernment and growth in holiness. “It’s a lifestyle that would benefit any Catholic man deciding what to do with his life,” he said. “We were blessed to have the involvement of great priests. Their commitment is essential, otherwise the program would soon crumble.”
Forbing believes that the key to success at the Father McGivney House is a combination of good role models and good community. “I have received a lot of practical advice,” he said. “And it has been great to notice the growth in each other in the house, to care for and encourage one another, and to show interest in how things are going for our souls, not just with our jObs.”
The importance and impact of the McGivney House is summed up by David Ciarametaro, a recent law school graduate who lived a year at the house and is now applying to seminary. “I was wavering about priesthood at the beginning of the year I lived there, but now I am applying,” he said. “I needed the brotherhood, the camaraderie, to help in my discernment.”
•Bob Horning writes for the Catholic press from Ann Arbor, Mich.
•Photos by Christine Jones
The idea for the Father McGivney House was inspired by a similar discernment house for women, the St. Catherine House, which is also associated with St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor. In the past three years, six of the women who have lived at the St. Catherine House have entered religious life.
The priests of the parish were encouraged to start a men’s house with help from the local Knights council. Mike Rohde, along with his fellow Knights who were familiar with pre-theologate houses at Catholic universities, asked,”Why not here?”
Father Chas canoy believes the success of the Father McGivney House can be duplicated wherever there is a parish relatlvely close to a university.
“You have to have a priest or two who are willing to invest an evening a week,” said Father Canoy, “But if a priest is serious about vocations, allowing an avenue by which young men can witness the life of a priest is essential.”
Rohde suggested that opening similar houses of discernment elsewhere would be an excellent way for some Knights councils to support vocations, adding, “What a great concept to have McGivney Houses all overthe country.”