Note: Four graduates of Thomas Aquinas College have been ordained this past year, bringing to 50 the number of alumni priests in the College’s first 40 years. Below is the second in a series of profiles of the College’s newest ordained alumni.
At a young age, Joe Dygert experienced firsthand the transformative power of the Sacraments and, by extension, the importance of the priest who administers them.
“Up through ninth grade I really didn’t take my faith that seriously,” he says. “There were other things that were more important to me, like fitting in with the crowd at school.”
Yet as he matured, he began to think more deeply about the spiritual life. One day during his sophomore year in high school, while walking in the woods near his family home in Colorado Springs, the reality of sin and hell dawned upon him. This newfound awareness prompted him to go to confession, where he was overwhelmed by the depth of Christ’s mercy. The experience “changed my life,” Fr. Dygert reflects. For the next 15 years, he considered a calling to the priesthood, culminating in his ordination at the hands of the Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, S.Th.D., Bishop of Colorado Springs, on June 19, 2011.
There were, naturally, many stops along the way. The first was at Thomas Aquinas College, which Fr. Dygert describes as “a real blessing to me.” Particularly of value, he notes, was “the great gift” of reading the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. “The education I received at the College is indispensable for me as a priest.”
Next he enrolled in the Ave Maria School of Law, but only for one year. “In hindsight, I can see that I was running away from the seminary,” Fr. Dygert observes. “I was trying to find some other way to serve God, and I thought, ‘I can serve God as a lawyer!’ While that is true — one can serve God as a lawyer — that wasn’t where He wanted me to go.” Fr. Dygert’s time in law school helped him realize that “It wasn’t enough to be living a vocation other than giving myself completely to Christ in celibacy and in a priestly vocation.”
Today he does just that as the parochial vicar at Ave Maria Catholic Parish in Parker, Colo. He teaches religion to students of all ages, leads the RCIA program, assists the St. Vincent DePaul Society, and serves as the chaplain for the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. Most important of all, Fr. Dygert offers the sacraments — ever mindful of their transformative power in the lives of his parishioners.
Posted November 18, 2011