By Casey Keeley
If you are a college-aged Catholic in the United States, then chances are you’re familiar with the name Father Mike Schmitz. For those less familiar, this priest is the campus minister at the University of Minnesota in Duluth and has a prominent online ministry.
Father Schmitz works alongside Ascension Press to post videos that help give answers to common questions people have about faith and has walked thousands of people through the Bible and Catechism in a Year podcasts.
Because of his online presence, Father Schmitz is a popular public speaker within the Catholic community, seen often at Steubenville conferences across the nation.
It was during one of those conferences that Gerald Stults of St. Mary Parish in Johnson City came to terms with the pull in his heart to become a priest.
“It’s been in the back of my mind that I may become a priest since I was in the eighth grade,” Mr. Stults said. “It was during his (Father Schmitz) talk that I felt the confidence to be able to tell my family and friends and begin applying to seminary.”
The Stults family migrated to East Tennessee from California in 2010 with four children. The mother, Maura, came from a Catholic background, and her children were baptized Catholic. The family sampled several Christian denominations before Maura Stults found her way to St. Mary in 2017.
Since Mrs. Stults rejoined the Catholic faith, the rest of her family gradually began the process of following in her footsteps, with eldest son Edwin receiving the sacraments this past Easter and her husband, Michael, becoming the last catechumen with the intention of receiving the sacraments next spring.
Gerald Stults points out that he was too young to remember much about teachings in the Protestant churches, but that Catholicism really clicked with him in the seventh grade when he was participating in the youth group at St. Mary.
“Stephanie Mann, the youth minister at the time, started telling us about all these Catholic teachings, and that’s the first time I was ever like ‘oh, I get it,’” Mr. Stults said.
Mr. Stults planned to earn an engineering degree before applying to seminary school with the hope of making that vocational step after he established a career. However, St. Mary pastor Father Dustin Collins encouraged him to fully embrace seminary school and immerse himself in his call to be a priest.
Father Collins has been a helpful resource for Mr. Stults by answering any questions he has about his upcoming journey and giving him an idea of what life will be like in the seminary.
“Gerald has been active in our parish youth group, helped serve at Mass, and has grown in his faith over the years,” Father Collins said. “I am happy that he has been willing to answer God’s call and start his seminary formation.”
Since making the decision to directly apply to seminary school, Mr. Stults has become more intentional about his relationships and surrounding himself with fellow Catholics who are close to their faith. He has been delving into his faith by listening to talks and reading more about Catholicism while also improving his prayer life.
“I am most looking forward to the sense of brotherhood and community that exists between seminarians,” Mr. Stults said. “To only have each other there for spiritual guidance and assistance without any outside distractions is going to be amazing for my faith.”
St. Mary parishioners are offering prayers for Mr. Stults as he begins his pursuit to become a diocesan priest. Catholics in the diocese can write Mr. Stults and offer words of encouragement as he pursues God’s calling for his life. Write to:
Conception Seminary College
P.O. Box 502
Conception, MO 64433-0502