In preparation for our Homegrown Harvest Gala in the fall, which will benefit the Diocese of Jackson Office of Vocations, over the next several weeks we will feature a Q&A with one of our seminarians. This week, meet Ryan Stoer who is entering his fourth year of formation.
What is your home parish?
St. Richard, Jackson
What is your background? (Where are you from, how did you end up in Mississippi, etc.)
I was born In San Diego, and I have lived in Ohio and New Mexico. I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico Tech. I had a few job offers after I graduated, but I ended up taking a job which required a security clearance. My parents had moved to Mississippi while I was in college, so I stayed with them as I waited for my clearance. During this time of waiting, I was told that I should consider the priesthood.
What is your vocation story? Who influenced you and why?
My vocation story is relatively simple. All it took was a single question. But, before I get to that question, I will give you a little of my background.
For much of my life, I considered success the highest goal. I did well at almost everything I tried. In high school I graduated as the salutatorian and I did well at swimming. I practiced and strived for perfection in academics, sports, and in everything where anyone had any expectation from me. I was at the top of my class at college, had everything paid for by scholarships, and had three job offers when I graduated. Two of those jobs would have started the day after I graduated, but I chose the one which required a clearance, so that I could come back to Mississippi, and help my Mom who had cancer at the time.
The clearance should have taken six months, but as new politicians and other civil servants were given clearance after the 2016 election, it took longer. I started applying to other engineering jobs, yet did not hear back from any of them.
Finally, one day, I was fed up, and went to confession. I told the priest everything I had done, he gave me absolution, and then he told me that God loves me and then asked me a question. He asked, “Have you ever considered being a priest?”
In response, I told him, “No, I want to have a normal life. I want to have a wife and kids, and I want a normal job.” Then I left. But what he said had stuck with me.
Afterwards, I talked to a Deacon at St. Richard Jackson and told him of my experience, and he helped me pray and discern what I should do. After a few months, I decided to enter the seminary.
A week after I entered, I received a phone call that said “Your clearance has come through, we expect you to report to work next week.” They told me all my benefits, my salary, and where I would live. I never thought that I would tell them no, and that I had started a new path towards the priesthood, but that is what I did.
That priest was Father Frank Cosgrove. For my entire life, everyone had looked up to me for what I did, and how well I did it. I was praised for my good grades and other successes, but no one, had ever looked at me, knowing only my sins, and told me that I was loved, simply because I am me. No one had called me out to think beyond success toward God. I think it was the first time I had felt the gaze of God and thought about something other than my own desires, and it became the foundation for my discernment.
What draws you to diocesan priesthood? And to the Diocese of Jackson?
What Father Frank did for me, I want to do for others. I want to enter into people’s lives: their joys and sorrows, their trials and triumphs, and show them that God loves them. I desire to bring God to them in the sacraments. I want to embody Christ and bring him into the practical matters of everyday life. I want to show that God enters into the suffering and evil, not simply to get rid of it, but to truly redeem it and bring out an even greater good. I would like to be a priest so that I can encourage others to develop their relationship with God, so that they can find lasting peace and fulfillment in the love that only God can give. I would like to do this in the Diocese of Jackson, because that is where I experienced God’s abundant love for me.
What are your hobbies/interests?
I like to swim, play tennis, go to the gym, read, watch movies, and hike.
Who is your favorite saint and why?
My favorite saint is St. Lawrence. He was my confirmation saint. I picked him because he was funny. He was martyred by being roasted on a grid iron. As he was being roasted, he said “I am well done on this side. Turn me over!” As a teenage boy, I thought it was great that he could come up with a funny remark, even as he was being tortured. But as I grow older, I find the remark that caused him to be killed much more inspiring. The prefect of Rome told Deacon Lawrence to bring the wealth of the Church to him within three days. Lawrence, took the treasures of the Church, gave it to the poor, and brought the poor, lame, and widowed with him as he told the prefect, “These are the treasure of the Church.” I admire St. Lawrence for his courage, humility, and humor, and he inspires me to remember what is truly important.