FOWLER , Mich. (June 25, 2014) — Even in a time when the number of priests in the United States is low, a growing number of young men are making that commitment and working to become priests.
It’s happening in West Michigan and in the Lansing area, where the number of priests in one family just grew by two, and they’re twins.
At age 26, Todd and Father Gary Koenigsknecht are both priests.
Two priests in one generation, and they are part of a growing number from the small town of Fowler, Mich., just outside Lansing. There have been 22 priests ordained from their parish in a history going back more than 100 years.
“We’re pretty close as brothers go,” said Father Todd Koenigsknecht.
“It’s strange compared to other towns, but for us, because there have been so many, it seems very normal,” he said.
The twins credit their strong faith-based farming community for encouraging this path.
In West Michigan, the Grand Rapids’ diocese is also seeing more men studying to become priests. Five priests have been ordained since 2012, and another two are set to be ordained in 2015. There are also 18 young men studying to become priests. And, the diocese says, that number is expected to grow.
Father Todd said he knew he was called to priesthood when helping perform funeral masses in middle school. “About half way through my 7th grade year, I was struck by the fact, in serving these funeral masses, I was left feeling joy and hope and thought that was a little weird.”
For twin brother, Father Gary, the call came even earlier. And uncle who is a priest had an influence. “I was watching him one day at seven or eight years old, and a thought came into my head that said, ‘Gary, if you want to go to Heaven one day, you should be a priest.”
The twins were officially ordained mid-June.
Having been priests a little less than two weeks hasn’t given the Koenigsknechts time to create their own unique styles, but they say the fact they are twins has definitely connected them with their parishioners right away.
“People just generally love it,” said Father Todd.
“It’s a nice way to break the ice as priests, and people can relate to you. It’s just on a different level,” added Father Gary.
The brothers encourage other men and women who feel they have a calling to serve, to trust that calling, as they did.