Sometimes, before you can take the first step to discerning the priesthood, there is a bumpy process with a lot of twists and turns that can take years.
Tyler Kline on the other hand, helped in large part by his parents’ insistance that he attend Catholic Schools, took the first step a long time ago, and he’s been following the signs ever since.
“A lot of guys might feel like they have to doubt their vocation, that you can’t be sure about it because there has to be some sort of radical sign, that there can’t just be a gradual unfolding of God’s providential love in your life,” said Kline, who is in 1st Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg. “But that’s how it is for me.”
He’s really only come to one fork in the road, when he spent three years in college at Fordham University in New York discerning with the Jesuits. That was the major question, “What kind of priest should I be?” It was answered when he discerned diocesan priesthood.
Kline’s life has been filled with wonderful priests who helped point the way along the path to seminary. It started during his days as an altar server at his childhood parish St. Philip Neri, and Msgr. Francis Zorbach, the pastor from 1970 until 2002.
“He’d always say to me when I was a kid serving Mass, ‘Tyler baby, I’m praying for you to be a priest.’ That was always his line,” Kline said. “Then, as a teenager in high school, I said, ‘Monsignor, I’m thinking about being a Jesuit.’”
But Msgr. Zorbach continued encouraging Kline toward diocesan priesthood and leading by example.
“There was such a deep humanity to him,” Kline said. “He was so joyful and very loving and free. He was an incredibly grandfatherly figure. He would stand outside the school every morning and greet every single kid by name, and he was such a very humble, down-to-earth guy.”
Msgr. Zorbach was one of Kline’s first priestly mentors, but wasn’t his last. Fr. Joe Machini, S.J., the chaplain at Loyola Blakefield, kept the enthusiasm for the priesthood going.
“He was an incredible mentor, and again, he was someone who had those two characteristics,” Kline said, “this profound joy and a profound sense of freedom you could see when you encountered this guy.”
In college it was more of the same—Jesuit professors exhibiting the same spirit in the priesthood that Kline had seen throughout his life.
“It was the same thing there. They had so much joy, and they had a sense of freedom. Priesthood was on my mind, just a desire that grew over time through prayer, and through mentors and friends. I gradually came to realize that’s what God is calling me to do.”
Kline has been so sure-footed in his faith throughout his life that the biggest draw to the priesthood for him is the chance to one day “seek out the people who feel cast out, who feel like they’re somehow beyond God’s love, beyond his mercy,” and administer the Sacraments.
There were some brief thoughts of a vocation other than the priesthood for Kline here and there along the way, and a few glances at other careers, too.
“When I was younger I thought about maybe going to the service academies,” he said, “then maybe it was law or public service or something like that. But if I’m truly honest, this is what I’ve wanted to do since middle school.”