Last updated: August 24. 2013 10:56AM -

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GLANDORF ?? The Rev. Nathan Bockrath, along with three fellow seminary students, was ordained as a Catholic priest June 22 at Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo.

He was only 5 years old when he first considered the priesthood.

??I was in kindergarten, and was really impressed with this religion class,? Bockrath said. ??I was talking to my grandma and she heard the excitement in my voice and suggested that someday I might like to be a priest.?

The idea stuck. As he grew up and entered his teenage years, he put the priesthood on the back burner, but it did not stay there.

??In my heart, I always felt the call, but I really wanted to be sure,? he said. ??In my eyes, both marriage and the priesthood are beautiful sacraments. For me, it was choosing between two good things. I??m thankful for the time I was able to take because I then had a deeper conviction of the call in my life.?

Bockrath said becoming a priest usually takes between seven and nine years. For him, getting his training took eight years. He received a bachelor??s degree in philosophy and religious Studies from the University of Dayton, fulfilling the requirement of having at least 30 hours of philosophy before seminary. He then received a Master of Divinity from Mount St. Mary Seminary of the West in Cincinnati.

The five years of seminary study included two years of dense theology, a year-long internship to gain practical experience, another year of studies in which he was also ordained as a deacon, and finally, another year of practical application classes.

??That last year, you are basically prepping for ordination,? Bockrath said. ??You take classes on doing Mass, hearing confessions, doing different sacraments. There are courses on marriage and baptism ?? everything is very practical.?

After his many years of study and preparation, Bockrath did not have the words to describe his ordination.

??It??s hard to put it into words that would do the experience justice,? he explained. ??For myself, I was more nervous, but it was an amazing ordination and humbling, too. To see all the priests come to support our class, it was just amazing ?? a really great day.?

The Mass of Ordination was celebrated by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of the Diocese of Toledo. During the Mass, those being ordained were called up one at a time, and the bishop laid his hands on their heads.

??Once the bishop lays his hands on your head, you are considered ordained,? explained Bockrath.

Bockrath said his family has been very supportive but have never pushed him either way on his decision to enter the priesthood. He was excited to have not just his parents, but both his older sister and brother and their families at the ordination.

As is tradition, Bockrath then returned to his home parish, St. John the Baptist in Glandorf, the following day to perform his first Mass, a Mass of Thanksgiving, as an ordained priest.

??Some of the things beforehand, getting all the parts of the service in place ?? I was really nervous about that,? he said. ??I had a lot of help with other ministers there. I had two deacons to assist me, and you have a priest that supervises to make sure you don??t forget anything and you say the right prayers. That person is called an archpriest, and I had my friend, Father Michael Roemmele, fulfill that role for me.?

Bockrath again struggled to find words to share the experience.

??Eight years of training all led up to that moment,? he said. ??It??s difficult to have words to describe that.?

After ordination, the new priest is usually assigned a parish where he serves as an assistant pastor. Bockrath has been assigned to the St. Paul Parish in Norwalk

In addition to assisting the head pastor there, he will also be the chaplain at the Catholic schools there, Norwalk Catholic School and St. Paul High School.

As Bockrath begins this new chapter, he is looking forward to many of his duties.

??The more I think about it,? he said, ??the more I am able to say that things like saying Mass and giving sacraments are what I am most looking forward to. For us, those are huge things.?

As with any new endeavor, Bockrath also has concerns.

??When you go through seminary, you become aware of your weaknesses,? he explained. ??It??s scary to enter into a vocation where your influence could turn someone further from God rather than closer. I hope my weaknesses never hinder someone??s relationship with God.?

At the age of 26, Bockrath is hoping that one influence he can exert in his new role is with his own generation.

??I see my generation becoming more secular,? he said. ??There seems to be a loss of the need for religion, but then what values do you base your life on? I want to bring religion back into conversation.?

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Father Nathan Bockrath
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