Ed. note – Seven men will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph on May 23rd at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Catholic Key features three of them in this issue and four others will be featured in the next issue.
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Deacon Curt Vogel knows the exact moment he felt the powerful and miraculous hand of God directing his life and setting him on the path that will lead to his ordination as a priest on May 23.
Some might say he is crazy. Deacon Vogel will answer that he is blessed.
“People are entitled to their own opinions,” Deacon Vogel said. “From my end, I know what happened because I remember this experience vividly.”
Born with a severe speech impediment, Deacon Vogel’s parents, Dr. William and Haydee Vogel, began taking him three days a week for speech classes at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg from their home in Pleasant Hill.
Three years later and making no progress, the university speech therapists told his parents that he would need more classes, longer classes, and more intense therapy.
His mother worked herself to exhaustion.
“My Mom was doing the laundry for everyone, cleaning the house, cooking the meals, driving my brother to his sports and school activities, and helping with my homework from my speech classes,” Deacon Vogel said.
“My mother was overloaded,” he said. “In the midst of this busy time, she one day spoke to God praying, ‘Lord, I am doing the best I can with all the responsibilities you have laid before me, but I don’t have enough time to do them all. Please help me.’”
Deacon Vogel said she often went without sleep, and one winter, snowy day, having not slept for three days, she took her son to Warrensburg and fell asleep at the wheel.
“I was in the front passenger seat reading a Disney book,” he said.
“She drove off the highway into the median. Our van did eight complete rotations before it stopped,” he said.
“During this, my Mom felt a great sense of peace, and God the Father touched my mother and said, ‘Everything is going to be fine. Your little boy is going to be OK,’” Deacon Vogel said.
Not only were Mrs. Vogel and her son completely unharmed, but so was the van. She drove back onto the highway, then pulled over to the side of the road to collect herself.
A woman in a sky blue 1980s Toyota Corolla pulled up behind their van, who made sure they were all right, and offered to follow them into Warrensburg. But soon after they were back on their way, the sky blue Toyota disappeared.
But that wasn’t the only miracle. When they got to Warrensburg, six-year-old Curt Vogel was, for the first time in his life, speaking clearly.
“The people there could not understand it. ‘How did this little boy’s speech improve so dramatically since we last saw him? How can this be?’”
His mother told the story, and one of the therapists said, “That’s it. I grew up a Catholic. I’m going back to the Catholic faith.”
“Some people say I must have bumped my head, and thus something jostled in my brain to allow me to speak clearly,” Deacon Vogel said.
“But I never hit anything. I was safely buckled in my seat. Not even the windshield was cracked. I have always believed this event to be a miracle,” he said.
“God gave me something, my voice and how clearly I can speak now, for a reason,” Deacon Vogel said. “I knew there was no way I could ever pay back to God for this gift.”
When he was 12, he first began to consider that what God may have been leading him to was the priesthood.
His family was active at St. Bridget Parish where Msgr. Bradley Offutt was then the pastor.
“He definitely showed that he absolutely loved being a Roman Catholic priest. That struck a strong chord in me,” Deacon Vogel said.
“Msgr. Offutt loved to celebrate Mass, never said no if I needed Confession. His holiness came forth as genuine, and his homilies are always something you can remember to better change your life according to God’s design,” he said. “He is still inspiring for me today.”
But then, high school came along and “girls got really pretty!”
Deacon Vogel said he set aside his notions of being a priest, but not his prayer life. He eventually enrolled at Truman State University with the idea of becoming a Shakespearean scholar.
“That’s thanks to the ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ plays that are done in Kansas City every summer. My parents took my brother and I there since we were little,” he said.
But through his prayer, Deacon Vogel began to count the gifts and the blessings God had given him, while realizing he was really looking for a vocation, not an occupation, to use God’s blessings.
“One day, it hit me like a thunderbolt,” Deacon Vogel said.
“I knew that if I were 50 years old and I never even gave the priesthood a try, I would kick myself in the head. I knew I had to enter the seminary,” he said.
He transferred to Conception Seminary College, but even then he admitted to having “second thoughts.”
“One of the Benedictines there, Father Xavier Nacke, said something that should help anyone who is considering the priesthood,” Deacon Vogel said.
“He said, ‘While you men are in seminary, your discernment must be about whether God is calling you to the priesthood first. If he is not, then and only then should you discern if God is calling you to the married life,’” Deacon Vogel recalled, verbatim.
He still counts his blessings along the way, chief among them are his parents, and his brother, Dr. Mark Vogel, who have encouraged him every step of the way.
“I am ready to be a Roman Catholic priest,” Deacon Vogel said.
“I want to celebrate the sacraments, most especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our awesome faith,” he said.
“I want to help people draw into an even deeper relationship with our God, a God who has done nothing but love us,” he said.
“I know there will be tough days,” he said. “The priesthood I am about to enter is Jesus Christ’s priesthood, and he ended up dying on the cross for us all. I know I will have many crosses put in my path, but with God’s divine help and the help from the prayers of those around me, I will always pull through.”
Deacon Vogel also has a special prayer, Psalm 23, passed to him from his grandfather, a B-24 pilot in World War II: “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.”
“Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, and he is the one I will follow to the end of my days,” he said.