By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Deacon Joseph Sevcik enjoys sports and studied exercise in depth before entering seminary so it makes sense that St. Paul has been an important influence on him. Using athletic metaphors, the apostle explained his approach to his vocation in the first letter to the Corinthians:
“I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing,” writes Paul. “No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
The 28-year-old now stands at the starting line of his life as a priest — his ordination slated for May 23. He reflected recently on where he has been and where he’s going.
“God has been very generous in continually calling me into deeper relationship with Him. He sustains me and fills me with life,” stated Sevcik in recent interview. “He amazes me, intrigues me, and opens a path for me to follow. I did not grow up planning to become a priest. Through joys and difficulties I increasingly am grateful for the life to which God has invited me. I am insufficient in many respects, but have confidence that God will accomplish in me what He desires. I am inspired by St. Paul’s example of total reliance in the call and power of the risen Christ.”
Joe and Lisa Sevcik raised their son in Cedar Falls where the family were members of St. Patrick Parish throughout Sevcik’s childhood. After graduating from Cedar Falls High School, Sevcik pursued a degree in exercise science from Iowa State University, which he completed in 2014.
During his first year of college, Sevcik recalled in an earlier interview with The Witness in 2019 that he “experienced this strong and sudden call to priesthood.” He took some more time to discern his vocation before entering St. Pius X Seminary at Loras College shortly after finishing at ISU. He studied philosophy at Loras, completing the program in 2016 before moving on to Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate about one year ago.
“I am grateful for everything these past six years of seminary — for the numerous parishioners who have encouraged and prayed for me, for the many good priests who have given me an example to follow, for the parishes where I have been assigned, for all of the faculty and staff at both Loras College and Mundelein Seminary, and for a whole host of other things,” reflected Sevcik.
The deacon’s final year of formation helped him prepare for the spiritual fatherhood to which he has been called. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, he and his classmates finished their academic work online while living at the Vianney House, a residence for seminarians of the archdiocese.
“It has been a blessing to finish out these past few months back home in Dubuque living with the Loras College seminarians,” said Sevcik. “I am greatly edified by these good men who are preparing to be priests for our Archdiocese of Dubuque. Life as a transitional deacon has also taught me quite a bit.”
During his school years at Mundelein, Sevcik assisted at St. Theresa Parish in Palatine, Illinois.
“Having been with them the past three years, it was fun to continue to build on those relationships,” said the deacon. “I experienced a vibrant parish community and had a lot of fun in ministry with them. Jesus is certainly present in their midst. Good people. Good priests. They give me lots of hope and lots to look forward to as I come back home here … Mundelein Seminary is great. I was blessed to be surrounded by so many humble, intelligent, and faithful Catholics. We have a good thing going on there.”
After Sevcik is ordained a priest, he will be associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Britt, St. Patrick Parish in Buffalo Center, St. Wenceslaus Parish in Duncan, St. James Parish in Forest City, St. Boniface Parish in Garner, and St. Patrick Parish in Lake Mills.
“There is a concreteness now to life as a priest because I know the community to which I am entrusted,” stated Sevcik. “As a priest I am called to be radically for a particular people. It is a familial relationship. To love, to serve, to be and live among a particular people is a characteristic mark of being a parish priest. I certainly have been praying for them. Besides that, I am simply excited to get to know them and to learn how best I can be their priest.”
Sevcik is an ISU Cyclones fan who follows college basketball and likes, running, hiking, donuts and roasting coffee. He’s looking forward to having a kitchen and getting to know the people he’ll serve.
“Perhaps I will make cookies for the parishioners?” he mused. “I have enjoyed life in the seminary, but look forward to transitioning back into the life of a community.”
Sevcik has had many positive influences on his path to the priesthood, including the Scripture professors at his seminary and Father David Schatz, a priest of the archdiocese. He also credits the work of Bishop Robert Barron, St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed John Henry Newman for enhancing his spiritual life.
“Please pray for me to be a faithful shepherd,” he asked. “Please pray for all of us in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, that as Disciples of Jesus we will increasingly resemble our Lord.”
Deacon Joseph Sevcik speaks during a rosary that was livestreamed from Dubuque. (Witness photo by Dan Russo)