A Vocation from a Vocation
Back in 1981, a young man entered as a Postulant for the religious life. Discerning that his call was not to the priesthood or the religious life, at the same time meeting his future wife, he would eventually marry the love of his life in 1983.
At the same time, the religious community came to the wife and said, “now that you have taken one of ours, you must give one of yours back.” That “one” would be born in April 1984. As a married couple, they decided to place their new family into the hands of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On December 8th, this couple and that 8 month-old baby would be placed under the maternal love of Mary our Mother, consecrated to her Immaculate Heart.
That is the beginning of my vocation, under the protection and motherly love of Mary. Growing up, I would learn from my grandma to love our Mother Mary; she would bring me out to her shrine as a little boy of 5 years, to kiss the head of Mary and ask her to be close to me. Mary has always been close to me ever since that day that I was consecrated to her.
But there was another man that she would also be close to, my dad. Throughout the years of marriage, his closeness with our mother Mary would bring him to understand that God still had more for him, and this would be lived out in union with his better half in my mother. Ever since I can remember, my dad spoke to my brothers and sisters and I of his desire to serve our Lord as a deacon. Our Lord would give him many graces for this mission, especially the grace of counsel, but with 6 kids in the house, he could not at the time enter into the mission. However, his desire to serve our Lord would have an influence on his son. On the other hand, my mother would also show us what it meant to always look for the good in others, seeking to serve her family and others at any moment and any time. They would be the centerpiece of my vocation.
At 12 years old, I met my first Legionary Fr. Juan Gabriel Guerra at my uncle’s house when he gave a retreat to 20 Parker cousins. My aunt “Kitty” Zeik, who is a Regnum Christi member, invited Fr. Juan to give a retreat to her family in Wisconsin. It was from this moment that I would go to numerous retreats in Edgerton, WI where the Legionaries run an international school called Oaklawn Academy. For 6 years I was involved with the Legion. I entered into ECYD, a Catholic youth organization under Regnum Christi to grow as a true friend of Jesus; I went with Legionaries to St. Louis and Atlanta for the Youth and Family Encounters and made three trips to their “minor seminary” called Immaculate Heart Apostolic School in New Hampshire. For many years I was involved with Fr. Matthew Van Smoorenburg along with other Legionaries who mentored me (one of them being my Aunt Kitty’s son Matthew who was a Legionary at the time) and taught me to love our Lord in the Eucharist, entrust my life to Mary, and grow in love with a spirituality that the Legionaries lived in their priesthood.
There was a snag, though. As I continued in my high school years, I set my eyes on worldly glory, seeking for honors, sponsorships, football, weightlifting, track, rugby, extracurricular activities as well as elected positions. I sought to fill my curriculum vitae for college, but emptied myself of the true significance of my actions – the greater honor and glory of God. Meanwhile, my father watched his son take a path down the hill of self-pity. One day, I complained to my Dad that nothing was going right for me, the way I planned them. His response was to say those dreaded words: “Son, come into my room,” and shut the door behind you. Just like the day when he sat me on his bed to tell me that Santa Claus…well you know, he would again sit me on that same bed about 12 years later as he told me these words,”Son, you are being ridiculous. When was the last time you trusted in God, or is your best not good enough for him?” Stunned, I had no words to reply, but those words would affect me for the rest of my life. Our Lord was not finished with my dad, for his words of wisdom would be a sign as our Lord would guide him to help others at work and at home. His desire to be a deacon still was in his mind and heart.
After that discussion with my dad, my life changed. A tremendous joy pervaded in my life, accompanied by a return to our Lord, and new friendships that I had once lost because of my self-centeredness. Still our Lord was knocking as a familiar Legionary at the time – Fr. Chad Wahl – called me (I had ignored him for almost a year and a half) and asked me to help with a retreat in Edgerton. I went with a bit of reservation, but upon arriving, I found that I was the only one to help with nearly fifty kids. Fr. Chad was there at my side, and he broke the question to me that I had delayed for a couple of years; he asked me if I was still thinking about the priesthood. I was caught off guard, but I did say yes. He suggested to me that I take a pilgrimage to Rome. Coming from a family of humble finances, this did not seem to be an option, but our Lord had other plans.
As I prepared for the possibility for the trip, I realized that we missed a golden opportunity for a good price. The flight became too expensive. I told my dad that it would not be possible anymore. Right then, dad went to the computer, took out his credit card, and bought the tickets for my trip. He said, “If our Lord doesn’t pay for it, he doesn’t pay for it. Like so many other instances in his life, he would trust in the Holy Spirit and discern what to do for the good of his son. A week later came financial help from the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Knights (Now “Catholic Financial Life”) making the trip possible. Again, I learned to trust in the Lord.
I made the trip to Rome to discern my vocation, but at the beginning, it was more a joy trip. It was on January 1st, 2003 that our Lord gave me the grace to say yes as I looked into the eyes of St. John Paul II. With a powerful gaze, this man who could barely stand, gave me the courage to give everything to our Lord, just as he had done all his life. It was a day later I found myself at the altar of St. Francis Xavier, where Fr. John Bartunek gave a reflection on the life of this missionary saint and invited us to ask for his intercession. Innocently praying there, I was reminded that I was baptized at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, and the missionary zeal of this Saint made me realize that our Lord did not call me to the diocesan life but to the religious life. On January 3rd, I again entrusted my life to Mary as I incorporated into the Regnum Christi Movement. I returned home with the conviction that our Lord called me to the Legionaries of Christ whose mission attracted me to live as our Lord’s missionary.
Two years later I found myself in Monterrey, Mexico where I professed for the first time the Evangelical Councils of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Just before that, my dad made the decision to enter the diaconate program for the Diocese of Green Bay, but that was short-lived; visiting our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, our Lady would have other plans. While in the Basilica praying to Mary, my mom lost feeling in her legs. Dad and I had to reach out to her to keep her from falling. During the whole week in Mexico, mom’s feet were swelling and she did not know why (she thought it was the salt in the Mexican food). Two weeks later, after my parents got back to Wisconsin, my mom called me in Mexico to let me know the shocking news…after 14 years, she was again pregnant with my little sister Ava. My dad would not be able to continue on his path to the diaconate just yet.
5 years later, I was speaking to my dad on the phone, and he told me that two priests in the diocese had told him that they thought he would be a good deacon. In these five years, he was one of the founding members of Esto-Vir (Be a Man!), a Catholic Men’s group in the Green Bay Diocese. He founded a ConQuest club in Green Bay. He was also called upon to be a member of the Board of Total Catholic Education for his parish. It was then he was again confronted with his vocation to the diaconate as the Holy Spirit inspired in my heart to say something to Bishop David Ricken. Bp. Ricken had just finished helping Bp Chaput with the difficult Visitation the Legion had a year earlier. Bp. Ricken told me that he also thought my dad may have a vocation to the diaconate and that he would approach him in a couple months to speak to him about his becoming a deacon.
It was in that moment that my dad, with the approval of my mom decided to begin what was started 5 years before; he officially began his path to the diaconate. When dad told me that Bp. Ricken spoke with him (he did not know at the time I spoke with the bishop about this) and his formation would take 5 years, I could not believe it! After counting carefully on my fingers – literally – I realized that our Lord had put us both on a path that would have us ordained to the diaconate at the same time.
In these last 5 years, dad and I have grown very close to each other, not only as father and son, but also sharing together a vocation; both realizing mutually what God was calling us to as his own for the service of our brothers and sisters. And now, as we are nearing the end of our formation to be ordained to the diaconate, I realize that God desired that our vocations would be a vocation each coming one from the other. My vocation came from a mother and a father who always trusted in the Holy Spirit and who lived with great charity and focus on others. My dad’s vocation would begin in an innocent dialogue with his son. And now, our vocations would come together to be shared on May 7th, 2016 in Pulaski, WI where both of us will be configured to Christ the Servant, under the guidance and closeness of our Mother in Heaven. Once begun in our consecration to Mary on the Immaculate Conception would be completed at our home parish dedicated to Mary’s Assumption. Together with Mary, we will both prepare to be present on the following day at the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, serving at the altar. The priest will lift up our Lord in his hands upon the altar as we, both deacons, will witness next to the priest our Lord being lifted up like he was on that Ascension Day. Here we will hear the words of the angel, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring into heaven?” We will be sent to witness to others what we will witness each day upon that altar; the love and mercy of our Lord!
Br David Parker Jr., LC was born in Green Bay, WI. His dad was born in Bloomington, MN and his mom was born in Chicago, IL. From 5 years old on, he lived in Pulaski, WI while his dad worked at the Airport at Green Bay and his mom stayed home to take care of 6 children. He was introduced to the Legion when he was 12 years old through his Aunt Katherine Zeik who is a Regnum Christi in St. Louis and his cousin Matthew Zeik who was in the Apostolic School. Br David attended for 6 years retreats at Oaklawn Academy with the Legion and entered into the Candidacy in Cheshire in 2003. His first year of Novitiate was in Cheshire and his second was in Monterrey, MX. He return for one year of humanities in Cheshire and then went for 2 years of Philosophy in Thornwood, NY. He did 2 of his 3 years of internship visiting and thanking benefactors out of Thornwood and the last year out of Chicago. He returned to Rome to start a License in Philosophy and then 3 years for a Bachelorate in Theology.