Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ
“What is most important is that I show up and participate in God’s work of redemption.”
-Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ
I became Roman Catholic in my senior year of high school. It was the mid-1960s and everything had to be radical. So, what could a good Norwegian Lutheran do to be radical? I became a Catholic. A CATHOLIC! Conversion to such a belief left a lot of relatives and friends bewildered. I couldn’t become a hippy. Such a thing was just too unthinkable in my family – it was forbidden.
I’m not sure which vocation came first. I think priesthood came first and the rest were just hurtles to be jumped along the way. The young priest who walked with me during those days was equally bewildered by what I was searching for in my youth. But he was faithful to giving me instruction along the way.
I was so new to the faith that I didn’t know the difference between religious and secular priests. I was told to wait three years by the bishop of San Diego. I was to stay in touch and attend vocation sessions at the seminary. However, one Sunday after Mass I found an SCJ vocation flyer in the back of church. It was sort of like an Uncle Sam poster: “The Sacred Heart Wants You!” I had no idea what it was about but I filled it out and sent it to Trinity College in Redlands, CA. A week later I got an invitation to come and visit. I went along with the young priest from my parish.
My interview took 20 minutes but the priest and Fr. Dick Johnston visited for an hour or so. I entered formation that August. I still had to wait three years but at least I was a candidate and my vocation was on its way.
There’s not much difference between conversion and formation. Both are serious and ongoing. Both turn your heart to God and both involve struggle and determination.
There has been a lot of water under the bridge in the past 47 years. My vocation has been marked by construction, demolition and rebuilding. Fires and floods have also marked my way. It all adds up to literally building the Kingdom.
Earlier this year I was living with construction again at the novitiate. Waiting for completion can be a chore. Living under construction is a lot like formation. I watch. I wait. I get impatient. I get excited and I dream. I imagine how things will be when it’s finished.
It’s never what I expect but I’m always pleased. And it’s a lot of hard work. There is seldom a dull moment. I wake up filled with energy to begin a new day. Like formation I simply welcome the Spirit trying to respond to the love of God while seeking to be united with God and community. And somehow all of this brings about God’s reign. In the end though it doesn’t really matter. What is most important is that I show up and participate in God’s work of redemption.