The Journey to Priesthood

By The Beacon | April 10, 2013 9:00pm

By Hannah Kintner Staff Writer

Just ten years ago, Shipstad hall director Mark DeMott thought he might become a doctor, but since then his life has gone in a different direction. On April 6, DeMott will stand before the bishop at the University of Notre Dame to be ordained as a Holy Cross priest.

As an undergraduate in the class of 2002, DeMott was in the pre-med program at Notre Dame and also studied philosophy and theology on the side.

"I had never gotten to go to Catholic high school, so it was fun to have a chance to get to study some of that stuff," DeMott said.

He had his first encounter with religious life when he took a service trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico during the summer of his sophomore year. DeMott worked alongside a religious community, The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, to help people who were homeless or had drug and alcohol addictions.

"At the end of the summer, I didn't really feel like I wanted to be a Little Brother of the Good Shepherd," DeMott said. "But I was starting to get interested in the way that the church dedicated itself to serve the poor."

DeMott's new interest in the service of the church inspired him to seek more service opportunities through Notre Dame and to grow closer in fellowship with members of Holy Cross.

"The most important way that I started thinking about becoming part of Holy Cross was by getting to know the brothers and priests in the seminaries," DeMott said.

All Holy Cross religious men attend the Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame.

While discerning priesthood, DeMott worked as a campus minister at St. Xavier University in Chicago for two years after graduation. Then he returned to Notre Dame for a Master of Divinity while working as an assistant hall director. His time of discernment included prayer, reflection and discussions with family and members of the Holy Cross community.

In 2009, after a year in the seminary as a postulant and one as a novice, DeMott took his first vows of "poverty, chastity, and obedience." As explained by the Holy Cross website, taking a vow of poverty means "witness[ing] to a reliance on the Lord through a commitment of our goods to the common use of the community." The vows were renewed annually until DeMott's ordination as a deacon.

Typically, a seminarian will earn a Master of Divinity during his time as a novice, but since DeMott had already earned his, he got to work rather than go to school.

"My most unique experience in the seminary was certainly my experience in East Africa," DeMott said.

Holy Cross began ministering in East Africa in 1958, and the presence of Holy Cross has grown tremendously since then.

"It's in Uganda, it's in Kenya, or in Tanzania and most of the people involved over there now are African." DeMott said. "So it's no longer American or Canadian missionaries serving there, but it's African Holy Cross priests and brothers serving the church."

DeMott taught at Holy Cross Lake View secondary school in Jinja, Uganda from the summer of 2011 to the summer of 2012. On Aug 25, 2012 DeMott took his final vows and was ordained as a deacon the next day. The order of Holy Cross gave DeMott and the two other deacons in his class assignments. DeMott's was to come to UP.

DeMott's journey to priesthood will be completed at Notre Dame on April 6 in the company of 15 to 20 UP priests, brothers, faculty and staff. UP students Claire Cummings and Sean Johnston will present DeMott to the bishop for his ordination.

Cummings, a resident assistant in Shipstad, often talks with DeMott about ministering to her peers and growing as an RA and as a person. She is looking forward to her first visit to the University of Notre Dame and describes the opportunity as an honor.

"The amount of selfless love he has for his students is just overwhelming, and we're going to try to communicate that to the bishop before he gets ordained," Cummings said.

DeMott will give his first mass or "Mass of Thanksgiving" in the Chapel of Christ the teacher on April 21 at 9 p.m.

While DeMott is not certain what Holy Cross has in mind for his first year of priesthood, he expects that he will return to UP next year.

"One of the things I think that's fun for me in Holy Cross is you trust the Holy Spirit and you trust that whatever comes will be something that you enjoy doing," DeMott said. "I have yet to find anything in Holy Cross that I don't like."