By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — If his Archbishop O’Hara High School classmates voted on a “least likely to be a priest,” Father Adam Haake might have won in a landslide.
“There wasn’t much room for God,” said Father Haake, one of six priests ordained on May 19 in the largest single priestly ordination in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 30 years.
“For the better part of my time in high school, I became swept away in with the culture we live in,” he said. “I don’t know how I heard God’s call with how loud the radio blared in my car.”
But he could hear Christian Brother Douglas Hawkins, a fixture for years at Kansas City’s La Sallian tradition high school, and one who is known to generations of O’Hara students for throwing his vocation net wide.
Father Haake said Brother Douglas saw the future priest inside that Father Haake couldn’t see himself, not that the young man was in any mood to listen.
“I was asked a couple of times by Brother Douglas, in a poignant way, whether I was listening to God’s call, my vocation, and whether or not I considered the priesthood,” Father Haake said.
“I think I actually laughed at the idea,” Father Haake said.
It wasn’t the first time he heard it. While he was growing up at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Raytown, Father Haake had several of the parish priests there suggest that he might have the qualities to be a good priest.
But he’d hear none of that, not even at a very young age. Like many boys, Father Haake was certain he was being called to be a professional athlete.
“As a kid, I was happiest as a Catholic when the priest’s homily was short and we’d be home in time for the Chiefs’ game, or when it was a ‘doughnut’ Sunday,” he said. “My heroes wore baseball jerseys, not Roman collars.”
It wasn’t until he was out on his own for the first time, as a student at Missouri State University, that he finally claimed as his own the Catholic faith that his parents, his teachers, his priests and Brother Douglas had worked so hard to nurture in him.
On the Springfield campus, lonely and without friends, Father Haake said he discovered a community at the Newman Center who were no different than he, except for one important thing: They were happy.
“In my young mind, happiness and religion couldn’t be in the same sentence,” Father Haake said.
Wanting to know what all his new friends were so happy about, Father Haake said the Newman Center chaplain Father Len Brown pointed to shelves filled with books and suggested that if he really wanted to know what happiness was, read up on the lives of the saints.
He devoured those books.
“I was miraculously introduced into the lives of St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina, St. Bernadette, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John of the Cross, Archbishop Fulton Sheen as well as the living saints of our time like Blessed John Paul II,” he said.
“The saints are the best translation of the Gospel — they live it,” he said. “In these witnesses, I learned that God uniquely and unconditionally loves me and calls me as I am. Every saint starts off as a sinner, so there was hope for me.”
That realization led him to do something that, in high school, he might have thought he’d never do again.
“Life’s lessons relentlessly pushed me into the chapel near the campus in those first months at MS, and the inertia of that push didn’t stop until I plopped on my knees in the confessional box,” Father Haake said.
It was then, and under the Father Brown’s continued spiritual guidance, that Father Haake said he learned that he would never be happy unless he heard what God was calling him to, and he would never hear that until he gave his live over to God.
“I was finally open to allowing God’s merciful will to break into my life, and I began to get on my knees and pray for his will to fully lead me,” he said.
Father Haake said he continued to make friends at the Newman Center, friendships, he said, he will cherish for the rest of his life.
Those friends took him along for the annual Washington, D.C., March for Life in 2005, when he found himself doing something else that he wouldn’t have imagined doing in his wildest dreams just a few years earlier.
“At the youth Mass with about 15,000 Catholics filling the building, (Washington, D.C.) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick asked all those men who were thinking about the priesthood to stand up,” Father Haake recalled.
“I stood up,” he said.
“That was my first public witness to the call,” he said. “What pushed me up that day was the staggering realization that so many men and women in our culture need Christ’s mercy in a very tangible way. I knew that mercy, and I wanted to be an instrument of that mercy.”
The next day, joining thousands of people in the annual March for Life, his decision was cast in stone.
“Marching toward the White House, it put me shoulder to shoulder with the Mystical Body of Christ,” Father Haake said. “I found joy in coming together with people from all across the nation, and many who weren’t even Catholic.”
Father Haake said he not only heard God’s call, he had to act on it.
“St. Faustina taught me that my vocation is born, swims and survives in the incredible torrent of Christ’s infinite mercy, his pierced side and nowhere else,” Father Haake said.
“I discovered that my fundamental call was to be a saint. As soon as I swam into the deep in this call to be a saint, I quickly heard the call to be a priest,” he said.
Father Haake said he also quickly learned that God wouldn’t leave him to sink or swim alone.
“He is present and gives us all we need in the church, especially in the sacraments,” Father Haake said. “God knows me better than I do.”
And God also sends people to help him along the way, including Brother Douglas.
“I am grateful to be one of a wide fleet of O’Hara alumni whom Brother Douglas stays in contact with,” Father Haake said.
“I think I have received a note from him nearly once a month for years now,” he said. “He is always seeking to pass on some form of sage advice, a joke, and tidbits about things Catholic.
“Brother Douglas was never put off by how far I had drifted in high school. He was quietly Christ in my life,” Father Haake said. “In him, Christ was able to walk with me through the green and gold halls of O’Hara, even if I didn’t have eyes to see it at the time.
“Let us pray more men are called to be Christian Brothers,” Father Haake said.