When johannes werst was asked by his home parish priest a few years ago whether he could imagine becoming a priest, he thought: "for god's sake, you are a priest! I do not!" But god's will was probably different. Step by step he led him on a path that at first seemed impossible to him. The 26-year-old is convinced of this. On saturday, kitzinger, who was born in wurzburg, will be ordained as a deacon – and thus moves a lot closer to his goal of becoming a priest.
Fewer and fewer priests, increasingly large parishes, a growing loss of faith, and a decline in the faithful's commitment to the church. For catholic clergy, counseling is not easy these days. Nevertheless, a young man decides to become a priest. Why? "You can't answer that question in one sentence", says johannes werst. "There was a lot that went into it." In any case, he emphasizes, the desire "didn't fall from heaven.
The church becomes home
Having grown up in a catholic home, kitzinger initially had a typical "sacristy career, as he says: after taking communion, he was asked to serve in his home parish of st. Johannes altar boy. Later he helped out as a sacristan and took on one or the other task. Even as a high school student, he remained faithful to the altar service. "With the time one grows there more and more purely and the church becomes one slowly to the homeland ", he describes those years, which probably laid the foundation for his later decision.
Despite his strong connection to the church, johannes werst could not imagine becoming a priest at the beginning. His reaction was no different when the former hospital pastor in kitzingen, alfred potter, made the same suggestion to him some time later. At that time he was a student at the egbert high school in munsterschwarzach, had a girlfriend and completely different plans.
But life (or god)?) took the young man in a different direction.
The relationship with his girlfriend fell apart, the graduation was approaching and he was faced with the question: "how should it go on??" Exactly at that time he experienced the ordination to the diaconate of eugen daigeler, a candidate for the priesthood, who at that time was working in the parish st. John completed an internship. "It was a great experience, he remembers. At the same time, the question of the priestly profession resurfaced in his mind. "And at some point i thought to myself: actually, that wasn't so bad after all."
After several intensive discussions with pastor potter and his school chaplain, johannes werst finally decided: "i'm going to give this a try." And so after his high school graduation in 2005 he began to study theology and entered the wurzburg seminary. In the meantime, he has completed his studies and since october 2011 has been completing a two-year pastoral course in the parish community of kleinwallstadt and hausen near aschaffenburg. If everything goes according to plan, he will be ordained a priest in may of next year and begin his first chaplaincy in september 2013.
In the meantime, johannes werst has already been able to gain some initial experience of what it will be like to work as a pastor one day. "The priestly profession is incredibly complex", he says. A pastor meets people in the most diverse life situations. The range of tasks is very diverse, from teaching in schools to baptismal catechesis to mourning talks, he says. "It's a time to talk about topics that go far beyond the usual conversation about the weather, and sometimes touch on people's very existence.
People talk about god who were not expected to do so."
During his internship, johannes werst has experienced several times how positively people react, how grateful many are for a word or a friendly gesture: "so much often comes back – even for the smallest things." He does not feel much of church disenchantment in his work in the parish. On the contrary. "I experience that many of those who are there do it with great conviction", he explains. In kleinwallstadt, for example, there are three altar girls who sacrifice a lot of time for church service and youth work and "do it with great love.
The contact with people, the complexity – that's what attracts the 26-year-old to his future profession. He is aware of the fact that he will have to forego a few things for this. As a catholic priest, he is not allowed to marry. Marriage, family and partnership are not possible for him. It was precisely this important question that he dealt with intensively during his studies," he says. He admits that he "had to think hard a few times". Not because I wanted it to be, but because it simply had to be done, as he says.
The first rough "inquiry the candidate for the priesthood experienced this during his two semesters of study in freiburg. "A fellow student told me there that she had fallen in love with me", he openly.
He himself has not fallen in love. Nevertheless, he has consciously asked himself the question: "do I really want to continue on this path??"
A few semesters later he was once again forced to think about his future life. The occasion was the departure of former kitzingen pastor oliver wirthmann, who had decided to marry and start a family.
Werst then decided to postpone his studies and "once again dealt intensively with the subject": "I consciously asked myself: what can still happen??"
After careful consideration, the former convent schoolboy finally decided: "yes, I want to go this way".
He is not afraid of becoming a lonely priest. "Zolibat doesn't mean that I don't have relationships", he emphasizes. As with any other person, it is important to maintain friendships. He has a special friendship, for example, with two fellow students from his pastoral course. He can talk openly with them about many things "because we are in the same situation and often go through the same things emotionally".
In the face of increasingly large parishes and a growing shortage of priests, johannes werst will need the friendly support of his colleagues. He is well aware that his work as a pastor will not always be easy. Nevertheless, he looks to the future with a rough portion of trust in god. "Faith always means taking the leap from the wall into the dark", he says. "I want to do my utmost to ensure that this leap, with god's help, turns out well."
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