My entire fourth of July expereience in Yankton was wonderful. I absolutly loved the opportunity to spend time with the Althoffs and their incredible hospitality.
Rick + Mary were great hosts, between Rick's no fear adventuresome side and Mary's loving care of the entire family, I was in good hands. Annalise and Gina you guys are crazy and hilarious. Isaac you are the hardest work of all, and a gift to your family. You also have the same no fear gene as your father.
One of the other great joys of my time in South Dakota was visiting with Matt, Kate and their four children (Matt is one Rick + Mary's older sons). In every sense of the word Matt and Kate's family was truly beautiful. Their four children were full of life and entertained me with their humor and wisdom. As I spent the afternoon on the river with them, I realized that I was looking at the ideal family. The type of family I would want to have if I were going to become a priest. The opportunity to reflect on what I could have, and what I was giving up was profound . It is was one thing to want to be a priest and to feel called, it is another to be face to face with the joyful and beautiful reality of the possibility one gives up. For me the decision to study for the priesthood has never been a choice, but rather a calling that wells up from within and draws its origin from the God who created me. However, looking face to face at a beautiful, happy, Catholic family who embodied everything I would want in life was challenging. However, seeing their joy and the joy in their children's faces reminded me of the beauty and gift of God's call. I would be dishonest if I did not admit that coming to terms with the loss of one day having my own family, was difficult. However, I also realize that there are many wonderful families in the Church who I can serve, and who will welcome me into their lives with open arms. The reality of the sacrifice is real, but so is the gift. Spending time with Matt + Kate plus four, reminded me of this. As I continue my discernment I am grateful for having encountered the joy of family life, and the gift of good friends.