The Body of Christ

Each year, contributions to the Diocesan Services Appeal are used to provide significant support for the formation of new priests. Seminarians like Randy Koenigsknecht are now preparing to serve the faithful in our diocese, thanks to the generous gifts of many. Writer Mary Gates shares his story.

Having grown up in a devout Catholic family, Randy was raised with the blessings and support of the domestic church at home. Now he is doubly blessed with the support of the diocese as he continues seminary studies and anticipates diaconate ordination.


Randy is grateful for God’s providence. “God chooses to work through his people, and I have been given people to support me in many ways. It is very humbling. 

“I grew up like most Catholics: we went to Mass on Sundays, and we prayed together as a family. My family was a little unusual in that I am the youngest of 10 children and I have an uncle who is a priest.”  

Having been taught to pray and to ask God what his plan was, Randy has a distinct childhood memory of asking that question one day while waiting for his mom to pick him up from an activity. “I was in church, and I asked God what he wanted me to do. The words ‘you could be a priest’ came to mind and my immediate thought was ‘maybe’, but a ‘no’ came quickly after, and a lot of resistance followed. At the time I thought I wanted to get married and have a job, but I kept asking and the idea of priesthood kept coming back.”  

The encouragement and freedom Randy was given to discern, paired with the witness of those he saw who were faithfully living their vocations, provided the support he needed to keep asking and keep listening. “My twin brothers went to seminary when I was in grade school, and years later they were ordained priests (Father Todd and Father Gary, both of the Diocese of Lansing). Growing up, my uncle who is a priest was often around. He’d spend his day off on the farm with us, and every day he’d stop to pray the liturgy of the hours. So I’d see him stop working and either sit on a bucket or pace back and forth. My mom would tell us to leave Father Bill alone and let him pray, which probably didn’t happen often, but being able to watch a priest at prayer — well, that was a great witness for me.” 

As a high school student, Randy was on a path to pursue a future career.  

“By my teenage years I started to make faith more my own and I heard God’s voice more clearly. At the same time, I was considering architecture and taking a college class, so for a couple hours a day I went to study architecture, which I loved.”  

Yet after school and architecture classes were over, Randy had plenty of time to pray. “I had to go home and milk cows for three hours at night, which meant three hours of boredom a day — time to think and pray. There was a distinctive day milking cows the fall of my junior year when I thought about my future as an architect and I felt like there would be something missing, like something wouldn't be right. It was enough to get me to ask God what I was missing and what I needed to do.”  

It was then that the idea of the priesthood came back. But this time, Randy was ready.  

As his desire for the priesthood increased, Randy found support in the family that had raised him to consider God’s will above all. “Before I even talked to the vocations director or anyone else, I talked to my parents about this thought I’d had.”  

With his mom and dad’s encouragement and God’s grace, Randy felt peace and excitement throughout the seminary application process.  

Young men from the Diocese of Lansing who desire to discern a priestly vocation as undergraduate students apply to the St. John Vianney Seminary (SJV) on the college campus of the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Like many college students, the financial burden of tuition was a practical obstacle for Randy. “When I was looking at SJV, although I was excited to go and felt called to be there, I realized UST is an expensive private Catholic school, which was a big concern even with the scholarship I received for academics. It was then that I learned that God really does provide.”  

Randy was grateful to have covered his undergraduate costs through a combination of scholarships, his own contributions and those of his family, as well as money from the diocesan Albers Trust Fund. After graduating from UST and finishing his time at college seminary, Randy applied and was accepted to Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, where men complete their theology degrees and discernment leading to ordination. 

“Once you transition to major seminary, the diocese covers the costs of school and provides a living stipend, which
allows you to focus entirely on discernment and preparation,” Randy says.  

Because of the extra responsibilities and the demands of the schedule, undergraduate seminarians are only permitted to work in the summer while major seminarians are not able to have jobs outside of their unpaid apostolic ministries.  

“People say to trust in God’s providence and that he will provide, which is absolutely true, and one way he does that is through his people,” Randy says. “God could make money appear, but he doesn’t do that. Instead, he sends people, and it’s people of the diocese who play the crucial role in this. Priestly education wouldn’t be possible without them.” 

Now in his third year at Sacred Heart and at another key transition point, Randy continues to seek God’s will and be grateful for his providence.  

“If it’s God’s will, at the end of this year I’ll be ordained a deacon and the following year ordained a priest,” he reports. “I just finished a five-day silent pre-diaconate retreat where I really had time to ask the Lord questions and let him speak and provide peace. I do feel as though going forward to ordination is what he wants and that I have the freedom to respond.” 

Grateful and humbled by the support he has received in discerning his vocation, Randy says the people of God should not underestimate their role in supporting seminarians. “I’d ask people for two things: always pray, please pray for me as I am close to ordination and pray for priests. I want to be a priest and I believe the Lord is calling me, but I am not perfect, and I will not be a perfect priest. Please pray for all of us to have docility and to go wherever he calls.  

“Financial giving is an incredible way to help us — it has a direct impact on our lives. Not only does the funding help the guys who are in seminary looking at the next year and wondering if they can continue, but it also eliminates a huge financial barrier for someone who’s struggling to discern his future,” Randy says. “It’s a tangible and necessary help.”