Pastor's vocation story
by Diocese of Des Moines | June 30, 2021
By Father Dan Gehler
Father Dan Gehler wrote his story of how God called him to priesthood. This was originally published in The Catholic Mirror in May, 2016, shortly before his priestly ordination. Here is his vocation video.
It has been a long journey to arrive where I am today and it shows God is very patient. I first thought about the priesthood in 10th grade. I talked to our pastor about it and he told me to go home, talk to my parents, and pray about it. He never said anything to me about it after that; I assumed he didn’t think I would make a good priest so I got my teaching degree in agriculture education.
I taught for three years and decided teaching was not for me. Again, I went to the pastor of the parish and talked to him about the priesthood and he never said anything after our meeting. Again, I assumed he didn’t think I would make a good priest so I got my master’s degree in curriculum and instructional technology and came to Des Moines, where I started working as a technical trainer. During these years, I felt something was missing.
When I came to Des Moines, I joined St. Joseph Parish and met Father Sam Palmer. He got me involved in the parish, we would talk about different things, and every once and a while he would ask if I thought about becoming a priest. My response was to get more involved with work, the parish, the diocese, and teaching for local colleges so I didn’t have to think about it. But he would still mention it to me on occasion. At one point, I was working 60 hours a week between the different activities.
While I was busy, I still felt there was something more I was being called to, but I had convinced myself the priesthood wasn’t it. In order to find what was missing, in 2006 I applied to and was accepted to formation for the permanent diaconate and in 2010 was ordained. While the ordination was special, again I still felt there was something missing.
Also in 2010, I also had a major life event: I was laid off. I was told by a cousin that it was my 2x4 moment, that God had been trying to get my attention over the years and being laid off was God’s way of whacking me upside the head to get my attention. I spent time in adoration, going to daily Mass, talking to my spiritual advisor, talking to other people about the possibility of studying to become a priest, and just spending quiet time in prayer. In doing all that, I was finally able to put it all together and Bishop Richard Pates accepted me into the formation program for priesthood.
My advice to someone who feels they are being called, in addition to prayer, is to not be afraid to talk to someone about it. As I look back, I think I was afraid that if I expressed an active interest – if I went back to those pastors and asked more questions – I would have been pressured into becoming a priest. My experience has been that is not the case. If early on, had I actively sought help to discern God’s call, my journey might have been different. I’m looking forward to beginning the new chapter in my life when I’m ordained June 3, 2016 and can begin serving the people of the Diocese as a priest.
+Eternal rest grant unto Father Dan Gehler, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.