Once a minister of the Episcopal Church, I am today a Roman Catholic Priest, serving as pastor of the parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas. As it turns out, becoming a Catholic priest brought me “full circle.” Allow me to share with you how and why.
For the first time in my life, I began thinking of the “big picture”: What do I want to do with my life? Who am I? What do I believe? It was about the time I began asking myself these questions that I started attending daily Mass at the local parish, St. Anthony’s Church. Why did I start going to Mass? Today, as a priest I would say that it was God’s prompting, an action of the Holy Spirit. But back then I thought the reason was familiarity. I had been going to Mass there since I was seven, and thanks to scouting, I’d spent plenty of time in this building (more than I ever did in a synagogue).
Fr. Rohen is a retired US Army Captain, having served as a military chaplain. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago.
My father is of Jewish upbringing, and my mother was raised Protestant, but both gave up the practice of any religion when they reached adulthood. Accordingly, I grew up without religious instruction, having limited exposure through relatives both to Judaism and to Protestantism. My fondest childhood memories are of Christmas at the warm and cheerful home of my maternal grandparents. The enormous tree, surrounded by endless presents, was the highlight of my existence, and the usual collection of Christmas carols, some with occasional references to a newborn king, afforded what seemed to be the most fitting orchestration for this annual event.
Taking dramatic steps of faith runs in the family. In the eighteenth century, my ancestors left Switzerland for the new colony of Pennsylvania to find religious freedom. The two Longenecker brothers were Mennonites — members of an Anabaptist sect so strict that it had been persecuted by John Calvin.
As an active Protestant Christian in my mid-twenties, I began to feel that I might have a vocation to become a minister. The more I studied, the more perplexed I became. At one stage my elder sister, a very committed Evangelical Protestant with somewhat flexible denominational affiliations, chided me with becoming “obsessed” with trying to find a “true Church.” “Does it really matter?” she would ask.