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Father Luke Austin's call to priesthood

Father Luke Austin Vermont Catholic photo by Cori Fugere Urban Father Luke Austin
“I was interested in some form of government service, but as God methodically drew me to my vocation, He was calling me to another form of service and another way to love,” said Father Luke Austin.
 
The pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary-St. Louis Parish in Swanton and Highgate Center said it was a challenge ending an approximate 2-year relationship, but he did not miss the law when he decided to enter the seminary. “There was, at the same time, a growing feeling of freedom to make such a decision.”
 
Asked to share his vocation story with Vermont Catholic readers, Father Austin offered his thoughts not only on his own vocation but ways to encourage men toward the priestly life.
 
His parents, Pauline and the late Dr. David Austin Sr., were raised in Vermont and attended Catholic schools; they met in Burlington.
 
When Father Austin was in kindergarten, he would “play priest,” and his grandmother’s housekeeper sewed him some “vestments.”
 
“But the funny thing is that I never considered it as something I would be when I grew up,” he said.
 
He attended Christ the King School and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland, graduating in 1994; he treasures his Catholic school experience. He graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1998, majoring in government and obtained a law degree from George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., in 2002.
 
It wasn’t until the end of law school that he first considered the priesthood as a real possibility. “The [clergy sex abuse] scandals had broken in Boston, and I was thinking about all the good priests and nuns who had a cloud of suspicion because of all the uncertainty,” he said.
 
He spoke with his university chaplain, who then became the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Washington, and he encouraged the young man to stay in touch as he entered to workforce.
 
Before entering the seminary, Father Austin worked as a legislative correspondent for the Senate Judiciary Committee and had various summer clerkships in at prosecutor’s offices in the Washington area. He worked as an attorney on contract basis for the Department of the Interior.
 
The Washington vocation director encouraged him to become more involved in his parish, attend vocations events and see a spiritual director. “After peppering my spiritual director was all sorts of questions and running out of them, he said to me: ‘so what are you waiting for?’ At that point, I knew I had to speak to someone back in Vermont, just to make sure God wasn’t calling me there,” Father Austin continued. “But after speaking with a number of Vermont priests, I felt the sense of community and greater need in Vermont, and through that, my call to diocesan priesthood here. I am grateful God called me back home!”
 
He had no one role model, but talking to a number of priests played a role in his discernment to first enter seminary. He contends “the call” is best described as “living out God’s specific grace given to us at baptism, lived out in a certain time and place.”
 
After attending Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., he attended North American College in Rome and studied canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
 
Ordained in 2010, Father Austin has served churches in Manchester Center, Arlington, St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville and Danville.
 
Father Austin, who enjoys reading and skiing, is now judicial vicar for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
He advises men considering the priesthood to speak to their parish priest. “You need to talk to someone about it, because chances are, the questions you have are the same that your parish priest had,” he said.
 
He tries to encourage vocations to all callings, not just priesthood. “I ask my confirmation students if they have asked God what His plan is for their lives,” he said.
 
He also planned a Chalice Prayer Program in which each week a family takes a chalice home as a centerpiece for daily prayer for different vocations.
 
“As much as government service or a wife and children would be a beautiful thing, I know my family is the Church,” Father Austin said.
 
 
Last modified onTuesday, 27 December 2016 07:46
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