Father Xavier Mariae Meiergerd, C.F.R., described himself as a country boy from Wichita, Kan. So it could only be God’s providence, he reasons, that he finds himself graduating from St. Joseph’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York.
Not only that, he belongs to an order founded in the South Bronx.
“I’m a long ways from home,” he said. “I never would have imagined myself living in New York.”
Living in New York was a big adjustment for him. He explained that he had a “sheltered environment growing up.”
His parents, Don and Judy, belonged to St. Francis of Assisi parish in Wichita. That is where he and his two sisters—Lisa Prichard and Holly Tanner, both now married—attended as children.
“I love everything back there. A call brought me here,” the 37-year-old said.
In high school, he volunteered in the pediatrics unit at a local hospital. In college, he signed up as a Big Brother. He went on service trips during his spring breaks, including one to Mexico.
As a student at Kansas State University, Father Meiergerd attended a retreat at the St. Isidore Student Center. “I was called back to a more intensely active relationship with the Church,” he said.
“In college, I could choose what I want. This was something I wanted to choose. It was a moment of awakening,” he said.
During that retreat, he received “a taste of God’s unconditional love.”
“That’s when the faith became more central in my life,” he said. At the same time, he realized God might have plans for him to enter the priesthood, but he had his own plans.
“That’s when the wrestling began.”
In the summer of 2000, he traveled to Jordan to teach English, and the experience had a great impact on him. He wanted to repeat the experience, this time with a greater connection to the Church.
Even though he was offered a job when he graduated, he chose to become a Salesian lay missionary for two and a half years and became a teacher in rural communities in Bolivia.
When he returned, he knew what he had to do next. “I had to give the priesthood a try,” he said.
That’s when he joined the diocesan seminary in Wichita. During his fourth year, he felt a familiar struggle. “I was holding back from God,” he said.
“The Lord challenged me to make the missions my life,” he said.
In the concrete city, God still finds use for his degree in agriculture. “I garden on the streets in Harlem. It’s a great tool for evangelization. Gardening on the street draws people in. They stop and want to talk to you.”
Father Meiergerd’s First Mass will be celebrated at St. Adalbert’s Church in the Bronx on Sunday, May 29, at 10 a.m. with Msgr. Thomas Caserta, pastor of St. Bernadette’s parish in Brooklyn, as the homilist. Another Mass will be celebrated at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Wichita.
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