Former Alaskan embraces call to become a Jesuit priest

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Nathan Krawetzke, 30, wrestled for years with what he felt God was calling him to — the Catholic priesthood.

Two years ago he took a step of faith and found himself in intensive training to become a religious order priest with the Jesuits. He joined the novitiate (or house of formation) in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“I wound up here because God is more steadfast than I am,” Krawetzke said.

Born and raised Catholic in Monroe, Michigan, he has an older brother who is married and a younger sister. Thoughts about the priesthood first surfaced for Krawetzke in grade school, and calling persisted throughout his time at St. Mary Catholic Central High School and beyond.

“I told no one about it,” he said. “I was afraid of what it would mean.”

“I was like the man who walked away from Jesus because he didn’t want to sell all that he had,” Krawetzke added. “But didn’t that man realize that if he sold what he had he would receive no less than the Son of God? I’m no mathematician, but I’m sure his property was worth far less than what God owns.”

Krawetzke began to respond to God’s call through service.

“In college I volunteered part time with the St. Vincent de Paul Club, but it was always just a couple hours a week at a soup kitchen,” he said. “In reading the Gospels, I couldn’t help but see the radical way Jesus calls us to care for the voiceless in society — like the broken man in the story of the Good Samaritan — and I knew that I wasn’t doing that.”

Upon graduating high school he signed up for a year of service through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which landed him in Anchorage in 2009. There he worked at Covenant House with youth experiencing homelessness.

Following his service year, Krawetzke returned home to Michigan to work at his old Catholic high school as a teacher, a job he found rewarding but lacking.

He eventually moved back to Alaska in 2011 to be the youth minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Anchorage where he worked for three “awesome” years.

“God worked on me like a river over a rough stone, and eventually God got me to the point where I could say with a heart full of joy, ‘Here I am, send me,’” Krawetzke said.

At the suggestion of then Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz, he began visiting various seminaries.

“When I visited with the Jesuits, it was the first time I felt excited about the idea of religious life,” Krawetzke said. “It wasn’t until I said yes that I had that interior sense of peace that I was stepping into God’s unfolding mystery for me.”

He now feels God has called him to a vocation that will challenge and shape him “and to something that I would have a blast being a part of.”

This summer he took simple, perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Unlike most religious orders that take temporary vows for set periods of time in the beginning of formation, a Jesuit takes perpetual vows after just two years of formation.

Krawetzke said the weighty step is a gift.

“God has freely given himself and offered himself to the individual, and the response in turn is a full gift of self, a complete offering as well,” he said.

As for the basics of his ongoing training, Krawetzke said a Jesuit seminarian typically spends 11 years in formation. Two years focus on learning to pray as seminarians take part in a 30-day silent retreat and a 30-day pilgrimage with only $35. After two years, they make their initial vow and spend the next three years studying philosophy. That is followed by three years working in a school, and three years studying theology before ordination.

Krawetzke is projected to be ordained in 2026.

He now is studying at Loyola University in Chicago where he lives in a house filled with fellow Jesuits, most of them students.

His daily life includes spending an hour in prayer, Mass, having dinner in community each night, reading and attending classes, and soon it will include ministry to those on the margins in Chicago.

Krawetzke also enjoys the outdoors for both recreation with his Jesuit brothers and personal reflection.

“I got hooked on hiking in college, which is why I looked to go live someplace with mountains,” he said. “I can’t think of a better place to reflect than out in the wilderness on top of some ridge looking down at serene alpine lakes and winding valleys. I’m also learning to play the mandolin, I love to go running, and I love all things J.R.R. Tolkien.”

Although Krawetzke imagined getting married and having children, he realized that God had a different plan for his life.

“I thought, ‘Why is God trying to rip this one dream of mine: to have a wife and kids?’” he said. “The truth of the matter is, I didn’t trust that God was God, that God would know what I was built for, that God knew what I really longed for, that God actually was inviting me to the greatest sense of fulfillment and joy that I could have.”

That sense of fulfillment and joy has stayed with him.

“My last two years in the Jesuits have been two of the best of my life, and I wouldn’t trade any life for this one,” Krawetzke said. “Sure, there are times when it’s hard — like when I go to a park in the summer and all the beautiful couples are out walking around holding hands. But hey, that’s just because that’s a beautiful thing, and I’ve got a beautiful thing too.”

Krawetzke offered words of wisdom for young people.

“For all men and women who think God might be inviting them to something like religious life, from the high schooler to the more well-seasoned, I say be bold,” Krawetzke said. “It’s quite an adventure. There will be struggles — fear often gets the best of us, but use that, offer it in prayer and let God transform you. God has great things in store for you.”


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