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Turn to Jesus (Article)

A Free Ticket to Boston
Fr. Aaron Dean Vinduska

Fr.  Aaron Dean Vinduska
Fr. Aaron Dean Vinduska
A vocation story can be seen from many points of view and never completely express the mystery and full extent of the experience of God’s call. There are many elements that He alone can relate, completely unknown to me.

The Beginning

I was born in rural Kansas and grew up on a farm just a few miles from my parish town of Pilsen. Pilsen hardly deserves to be on the map if it weren’t for its beautiful neo-gothic church that dominates the surrounding countryside. It is also home of the Korean War hero, Chaplain Emil Kapaun, whose cause for beatification is presently being reviewed. I am the youngest of three. My parents were always close and loving and exemplar in their piety. Sunday mass and monthly confession was the norm although the latter was always disguised as a family outing to the movies. I was also very close to my sister who has always been supportive. My relationship with my brother though was a bit more distant. Understandably he is 7 years older and we did not share much in common. However he too was instrumental in a positive way which at the time I didn’t appreciate much. I sometimes thought he considered me lazy, fat, and soft. All three adjectives had some truth behind it. He would occasionally voice these observations but more often his silence was deafening. He tried to make me more responsible, active and strong-willed. If it were not for his efforts I probably would not have persevered in my vocation during the difficult moments. A few key phrases he would say (usually under his breath) continue to ring in my ear even today. What was an annoyance years ago has become a debt of gratitude today.

A quick overview of my childhood does reveal a few interesting details that may have led to my openness to God’s call. At a very tender age I learned to be adventurous so that by the age of three, I was already hanging off the roof of the house (literally), by five I knew how to get to my grandparent´s house five miles away on a tricycle and by seven was singing the praises of God swinging back and forth on the top of my favorite tree. At nine for some strange reason I was present at a Protestant revival conference and to the great dismay of my parents walked up in front of everyone for the altar call. After being led to a back room a youth minister asked what denomination I was from to which I proudly bellowed, “Roman Catholic!” A few weeks before catechism classes started for my eighth grade year they still did not have anyone to teach it. I offered to do it myself to the parish priest who wasn’t sure what to make of it.

A singular event in my childhood that allowed me to see Mary’s protective hand in my youth was when I discovered I was mortally allergic to bee stings. I had been stung several times before in my youth, but on August 14, 1990 the reaction was far different. Fifteen minutes after getting stung I was unconscious and on the floor of the local medical clinic. The amazing thing behind this episode was that, providentially, my parents were at home on a Tuesday morning and that the doctor at the clinic had stayed an extra forty minutes after their midday closing time just chatting with the nurses as if expecting something to happen. The date has always been easy to remember as it was the vigil to the feast of the Assumption. This was also the event that gave my parents the faith to say yes four years later.

Even though I went to public school – there were simply no other options in a 40 mile radius – I had a great group of friends. Some things were almost laughable for us students when the problems of the city public schools would actually happen at our small school: bomb threats and guns (hunting guns left on the gun rack in the back of the pick-up). Other things though were real such as drugs, alcohol and sex. Nonetheless, the school was rather sports oriented. My class in particular was big on football. By fourth or fifth grade we were already practicing football plays during recess out on the playground. We were determined to win the state championship. In many ways this determination helped keep everyone in line. We were always looking after each other making sure everyone was making the grade and keeping out of trouble. Being a small school, we needed everyone to be present on the team to stand a chance. Our first season though in junior high was a poor, 2-4
Fr.  Aaron Dean Vinduska
Fr. Aaron preaches to a group of kids from Club Conquest.
record. The next year we went 5-1 only barely losing to a school three times our size. Before the games we always gathered for prayer. Being a public school, the coaches could not lead the prayer so we had to and wanted to.

The Encounter

In October of 1993, several families got together at the house of one of my best friends, David Rziha. Seminarians from a new religious congregation were going to stop by and introduce themselves. While one of them spoke to the parents the other seminarian started showing pictures of the seminary to us kids. During the course of this explanation, I supposed that seminarian had invited us to a retreat for Holy Week. Perhaps the invite was through our parents, but what I do remember is about a week later, at school, David came up to me and asked me if I wanted to go on a retreat. I agreed half-heartedly but also asked where it was going to be. At the response of, “New Hampshire,” the wry look on my face surely discouraged him. The prospect of two farm boys who had never flown before, spending a week in Boston and missing school seemed a ridiculous proposal at best. Flying meant too much money, Boston was synonymous to Timbuktu, and school was nearly as sacred as attending Sunday mass. To give an idea, my brother made it all the way to his senior year in high school before missing his first day of school. Needless to say, the following week we had tickets for Boston.

The shock of being let out of the house for an unmerited vacation quickly gave way to excitement. I never thought of the possible reasons why our parents made the sacrifices to let us go on this retreat. Priesthood was definitely not on my mind. The retreat was to be held at a high school seminary run by the same congregation from which those seminarians, that went to Kansas in October, came from. We were going to be joined by another thirty or so kids from around the country. Upon arriving to this school, we went straight to the chapel to thank Our Lord for the safe trip. The very first impact of the trip was entering that chapel: sixty guys, my age, were kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. I had never gone on a retreat before, but this sight helped me realize that this experience was not going to be like anything else I had ever done before.

The format of the retreat was simple. We did what the high school seminarians did. Every once in a while we would separate for a talk or meditation to delve deeper into the sacred mysteries we were living during those days of Holy Week. I would like to say they were perfectly normal guys, but it wouldn’t be wholly true. They possessed an interior happiness that radiated in acts of charity and sacrifice. The charity they lived was contagious. We were eagerly doing chores that, at home, would have begged a handsome allowance. Furthermore, they took their preparation for the priesthood seriously from the dedication to their studies, to the offering of the daily chores around the house for the salvation of souls. Even though many of the new friends I was making kept asking if I was going to come back that summer, I always said no. It never really donned on me what they meant by that question until the last day of the retreat when my friend David confided to me that he was seriously considering becoming a priest.

The Response

The weeks passed by after the retreat and I was continually confronted by that question: Are you going to come back? I was pondering this question, while staring out at the stars from the car window on the way back from visiting my brother at college, when my mother asked me a question. I do not know what she asked. I even doubt I heard her as the only thing I remember was my father slightly raising his voice warning me that I should answer my mother when she asked a question. Once again, I preferred to ignore them. They were not to be shunned. My father, once again, implored why I had been so quiet and removed the past several weeks. I simply looked at him through the rearview mirror and said, “Friday night, nine o’clock, I’ll talk.” My parents held their peace but with mounting concern.

Very punctually at 9:00 p.m. that Friday, I sat down with my father at the kitchen table. I found it very difficult to formulate words in my mouth. The awkwardness of the whole scene was daunting. Finally, after a few prolonged moments of silence, I told him, “I think I want to become a priest.” A weight was lifted from within but apparently landed square on my father’s back as he slowly edged forward in his chair by some mysterious weight of uncertainty of having understood the statement that had just been uttered in his presence. Another prolonged silence ensued as I thought my father might just fall out of his chair. The tension was finally broken when he fell back on his chair and slightly laughed to himself. He seemed to have registered correctly the statement and was pleased.

My parents have always been supportive of my vocation as well as my sister, without which the journey would have been next to impossible. Even my brother has warmed to the idea of a priest in the family. That very summer, I returned to the discernment course and entered the school at the age of 14. It was a sacrifice for many but God has rewarded it with peace and interior joy which I have always taken as the fulfillment of His promise of following His will.

FR AARON DEAN VINDUSKA was born on November 16, 1979, in Hillsboro, Kansas. He is the youngest of Donald and Regina Vinduska’s three children. He attended Center Elementary School in Lost Springs, Kansas and Center Junior High School in Lincolnville, Kansas. In 1994, in his freshman year of high school, he entered the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School, Center Harbor, New Hampshire, from where he graduated three years later. He made his first profession in Dublin, Ireland in 1999 and did a year of studies in classical humanities in Salamanca, Spain. He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2002 and master’s degree in 2008. He also has his bachelor’s degree in theology and is presently working on his master’s degree in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. During the years between his degrees in philosophy he spent four years doing youth work in Seattle, Washington and Alberta, Canada.

Los testimonios vocacionales de los legionarios de Cristo que recibieron la ordenación sacerdotal en el año 2011 han sido publicados en el libro "Dios lo da todo".



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