Seminarians feeding ‘Jesus’ at the Diner

Grant Huslig, left, and Joseph Mick have closed their school books for the summer and are applying what they’ve learned in their seminary formation at The Lord’s Diner in Wichita. (Advance photo)

One reason Grant Huslig is considering becoming a priest is because of the delight of priestly work that radiated from the chaplains of St. Isidore Catholic Student Center in Manhattan.

“One of the biggest influences in my life…transitioning from I’m going to be a doctor or a medical researcher someday to maybe God is calling you to be a priest was seeing the immense joy that the two priests at St. Isidore had in their lives,” he said.
Father Gale Hammerschmidt, the chaplain, and Associate Chaplain Father Ryan McCandless both played a crucial role in his life while he was at Kansas State University, Huslig said. Father Drew Hoffman, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, is now the associate chaplain at St. Isidore.

Huslig, who studied at the University of Kansas for a year before transferring to KSU, said the priests helped him grow closer to Christ by the way they interacted with students and because of how they brought so much joy to others.
“I think that really made me take a step back and reevaluate what I was valuing in my life, what I was pursuing in life, and what I wanted to bring to others in their lives,” he said in the currently unused dining room of The Lord’s Diner in downtown Wichita. “And that eventually led me to apply to seminary. I have been incredibly blessed this past year to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Wichita.”

Huslig, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Andover, is a seminarian at the St. Joseph House of Formation, located on the campus of St. Joseph Parish in Wichita. The Wichita seminarians study at Newman University. Huslig will be a 4th College seminarian in the fall. Next year he will be eligible to begin studying for a master’s degree in theology at a seminary located outside of the diocese.

Seminary life different than anticipated

Seminary life wasn’t what he had anticipated, he said.

“I had this image of everyone kind of being on their knees five hours a day praying,” he said with a smile. “We do that a little bit, but not five hours a day.”

Huslig said he has explained to people asking about seminary life that “there’s a presence of God in the community in the way that we care for each other, cook together, pray together. We have fun together.”

He praised the instructors at Newman University. “The professors are incredibly invested in us, not only academically, but also personally. They know all their students on a personal level. They want everyone to succeed. They’re there to teach their students and they want their students to love what they love, too.”

The seminarian said moving from thinking that God may be calling you to be a priest to acting on that call can be intimidating. “I know what college looks like. I know what getting a job and having a family looks like. I have no idea what going to seminary and trying to be a priest looks like.”

Reach out to Father Chad Arnold

But contacting Father Chad Arnold, the Director of Vocations, is not a hard commitment to seminary, he said, it’s just reaching out.

“And really, that’s all the seminary is, it’s taking the next small step and saying okay God, I’m open to this. Whatever your will is, help me to do it. Help me to understand it to the best of my ability. Maybe I won’t understand, but help me to take that next step, he said. “So, if you feel any sort of calling – if you aren’t sure – just take whatever that next step is, whether it’s writing an email to Father Chad or talking to your pastor at your parish.”

Huslig is working at The Lord’s Diner this summer. Before the coronavirus pandemic, he was scheduled to be a Totus Tuus parish missionary.

“I’ve actually been incredibly blessed to be involved in this ministry of The Lord’s Diner,” he said. “It has been a wonderful opportunity to serve our community, not only the poor and the hungry, but also those who are coming to volunteer and serve. I’ve been very impressed with the way The Lord’s Diner ministers not only to those on the outside who come to be fed, but also to the volunteers who want to be good stewards of their gifts.”

Putting training into action

Summer assignments for seminarians are a way for seminarians to put their training into action, Huslig said.

“You don’t study all the time or just kind of stay in your own little community as a priest all the time, you go out into the world and you try to serve your community and introduce Christ to them. That’s really what the summer is about for seminarians. It’s putting all of our growth and the love that we’ve gained throughout the year into action in serving others, and hopefully growing into the men that God is calling us to be.”

He thanked all those who have supported him as a seminarian, the parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul, the grade school students who write letters to seminarians, and all those who pray for them.

“Those are invaluable to us – we need those. I’ve been…so blessed to be a seminarian for our diocese where we have so many people who truly care about seminarians and priests. And it has just been wonderful being part of this diocese, so, thank you.”

Joseph Mick enjoying camaraderie of the job

Fellow seminarian Joseph Mick, who is now in his second year at the St. Joseph House of Formation, said the recent Feast of the Sacred Heart reflects one of the reasons he is in the seminary.

“I experienced the love of the heart of Christ in adoration in a profound way and wanted to be somebody who loved the church with the heart of Christ,” he said last week from the dining room of The Lord’s Diner.

Mick, a member of St. Mary’s Parish in Newton and a graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Wichita, said he had thoughts of becoming a priest as a youth and after high school.

He studied for two years at Benedictine College in Atchison with plans to major in chemical engineering before becoming a seminarian for the Diocese of Wichita.

Family was reserved but supportive

Mick said his family had their reservations but were quick to support him.

Life is more scripted as a seminarian compared to Benedictine, he said. “I wake up a little earlier for morning prayer and daily Mass. It’s similar in many ways as far as we’re on a regular college campus and we have fun together in the evenings.”
Strong friendships develop as the men work, pray, and cook together, Mick said.

Because he transferred into the program from another college, Mick said his class load is a bit heavier than some of the other seminarians but less overwhelming than his chemical engineering classes.

Prayer and action instead of Prayer & Action

He was going to work with Prayer & Action this summer before the coronavirus pandemic transformed the way society interacts. Prayer & Action is a Catholic youth ministry program for high school students who pray and work together to serve those in need.
“I’ve been on the (mobile food) trucks a lot that go out and hand out meals to families in low-income neighborhoods,” he said.

“I’m also here sometimes serving the homeless population and help with cooking and cleaning up the kitchen in the morning.”
Mick said he encounters “humanity in all of its brokenness” while working at the Diner, but that he is “striving to have hope in God’s plan for their lives.”

Working at the food ministry has been a great experience, he said, adding that with all of the kinds of personalities at the Diner, he’s becoming a better conversationalist.