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Transitional Deacon Kyle Rodden wanted a different kind of celebration as he approached his 20th birthday.
Previous ones had been disappointing to him, so he decided that this one was going to be better.
Little did he know at the start of that birthday—on Sept. 10, 2008—that he would receive a call to the priesthood as a gift from God.
Deacon Rodden, a sophomore at the time at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, decided to focus on others instead of himself on that special day.
He donated blood, shared dinner with a friend and went to Mass.
During the Mass, the priest asked the congregation in his homily what made them happy. Deacon Rodden meditated on that question and what he had done to make himself happy on his birthday.
“I looked at the priest who had asked the question, ‘What makes you happy?’ and I realized that his life as a priest [would do that for me],” he said. “I just turned to God in prayer and asked him if he was calling me to be a priest.
“Every day after that, I went to daily Mass and that would be the question that I would take with me to prayer. And the feeling of peace in seeing that the priesthood might be something that would fulfill my life just wouldn’t go away.”
Deacon Rodden and five other transitional deacons will be brought to that fulfillment when they are ordained priests for the Church in central and southern Indiana on June 25 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
Deacon Rodden grew up as a member of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Jeffersonville. He said that his parents, Danny Rodden and Mary Chris Rodden, planted seeds of faith in the hearts of him and his older sister Natalie in their childhood and teenage years.
“The soil was fertile,” Deacon Rodden said. “Prayer was always a part of our family life. My dad would always lead prayer for meals. Even if we had a family gathering on either side of my family, my dad was always looked at to lead us in prayer.
“My mom would pray with me before I went to bed every night. … She taught me devotional prayers before going to bed, like the guardian angel prayer.”
Those seeds continued to be nurtured in retreat experiences he had during his eighth-grade year at his parish’s school and then at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.
“My favorite thing as a kid, and even today, was hanging out with friends,” Deacon Rodden said. “The retreat provided us with an opportunity to hang out. We hung out, had fun—and we talked about some pretty meaningful stuff.
“It was a nice combination of people I loved with other things that moved my heart. The retreat experience spoke to me as something that fulfilled my deeper longings.”
Looking back on how his life of faith as a child and a teenager led to his discernment to the priesthood, Deacon Rodden says it boils down to one thing.
“I guess it came down to prayer,” he said. “Prayer and a relationship with God was really the context of my friendships, and helped to foster [my faith] and to make that more of a real thing for me.”
Mary Chris Rodden is certain that the habit of prayer that she helped instill in her son will aid him in his priestly life and ministry.
“God will give him what he needs, and he’ll stay close to God to minister to the people,” she said.
Danny Rodden is glad to see the good man that his son has become.
“I’ve always been proud of both of my kids,” he said. “I’m proud that Kyle has gotten to be just the fine person that he is. Being a priest is just phenomenal. He just wants to serve the Lord and serve people. He’s just a humble kid.”
Deacon Rodden didn’t do anything extraordinary to deepen his faith. He simply took advantage of the ordinary occasions of faith offered to him—prayer at home, going to Mass as a family and retreats offered by the Catholic schools he attended.
“When I look back at it, I feel really blessed,” he said. “I don’t really know how to account for it. I had to make sense of hearing that call on my 20th birthday in light of my life. Where did I come from? How did I get to this place?
“It was only after that kind of reflection that I began to see how important and how central prayer had always been in my life from the earliest stage.”
Prayer continued to be important for him after graduating from Providence in 2007 and enrolling at the University of Dayton.
During his last two years in college, after he had begun to discern his vocation, Deacon Rodden lived in a home in a run-down section of Dayton with a group of other young men who were fellow students with him.
Sponsored by the university, they were a small community intentionally rooted in faith which sought to share that faith with their neighbors.
The friendships Deacon Rodden developed in those two years remain important to him.
“My vocation has been a part of those friendships,” he said. “I’ll be looking for more of those kinds of intimate relationships in parishes, to share with people in their joys and hopes and sorrows.”
He’s also looking forward to nurturing friendships with the priests of the archdiocese, including Father Benjamin Syberg, whom he has known for five years.
“I know just how special and holy a man he is,” said Father Syberg, associate pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “When I pray for him and think about where he’s going to end up in the next few months, I’m just so excited for him.
“But I’m also excited for his people, that they’re going to get to see and experience someone like him. He’s going to bring so much life to whatever parish he finds himself in.”
Deacon Rodden is looking forward to beginning his priestly life and ministry. At the same time, he’ll seek to be a special sacramental sign of Christ for the people he’ll serve and to see Christ in them.
“I hope that happens most clearly in the midst of relationships with people on a daily basis,” he said. “Maybe in a school, if the parish has a school. Visiting people in their homes. Visiting the sick and the elderly. Being there in the bigger moments of life—baptisms and funerals. On a weekly basis at Sunday Mass.
“Getting to know people in their joys and in their struggles and the crosses they bear in their daily life, seeing how they hang onto their faith is a strong witness to me to how Christ is acting in their lives. It strengthens me in my faith.”
Deacon Rodden is also anticipating sharing Christ with others in two Masses of Thanksgiving he’ll celebrate at the two Jeffersonville parishes that share a pastor. The first will be at 5:45 p.m. on June 25 at Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. The second will be at 8:30 a.m. on June 26 at St. Augustine Church.
As special as those liturgies will be, he also hopes for many moments of faith with the people he will serve as a priest.
“I’ll be looking for ways to share the liturgy, prayer and blessings with people all the time,” Deacon Rodden said. “I think the opportunities will be pretty abundant.”
(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.) †