By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Lots of seminarians about to be ordained can point to lots of people who helped them along the way.
Deacon Gabriel Lickteig points to one very special mentor.
“The Blessed Mother,” he said.
“From my baptism until this day, maternal presence has been watching over me, and I only came to realize that later in life,” Deacon Lickteig said. “She is our true mother and the mother of all priests.”
Not that he doesn’t give credit to his earthly parents as well, Marty and Kathy Lickteig.
“Their lives of self-sacrifice for their children is a lesson that I will carry with me every day in my priesthood,” Deacon Lickteig said.
“No words can describe or express the gratitude a person has for the gift of loving parents,” he said. “Only God can adequately reward such sacrifice, and I have and will dedicate my prayer, supplication and sacrifice asking him to do so.”
Deacon Lickteig may sound like the kind of guy who made his mind up early, and it was all smooth sailing from there.
Hardly, he said. He needed all the help — earthly and heavenly — to get to his ordination May 23 to the diocesan priesthood along with six other young men.
Deacon Lickteig said he first began to consider the priesthood while he was an altar server from fourth grade through his sophomore year in high school. But, he noted, that’s not unusual.
“I think it is natural for any altar server to have the call lingering in his mind as to whether he is called to imitate the service he sees at the altar,” he said.
The call never went away, but Deacon Lickteig said he really didn’t pay that much attention to it, until one particular day.
“After going to confession to my parish priest, he suggested to me that I might think about the priesthood, and something clicked,” Deacon Lickteig said.
“I knew that the desires God was placing in my heart would only be satisfied by living a life of intimacy with him by participating in his work for the salvation of souls,” he said.
He still had sailing to do that wasn’t always smooth, he said, through a lot of obstacles.
“The world, the flesh and the devil whom we all must contend with in order to reach the finish line of victory in the Father’s house,” Deacon Lickteig said.
“There are serious spiritual forces that are opposed to everything that Christ and his church are about,” he said.
“You can be assured they do not want any more young men joining the priesthood because as one of my priest mentors would say, ‘The devil hates the priest because he can undo in one act of absolution what he has been working on for years and years.’” Deacon Lickteig said.
Modern culture is another obstacle that Deacon Lickteig and every seminarian had to overcome.
“Our culture is not big on sacrifice, commitment, obedience or any of the other essentials of the priesthood” he said.
“You have to separate yourself from the illusion of the false pomps and realize what they are — grass,” he said.
Deacon Lickteig also said he had to overcome himself.
“I heard it described this way: ‘There were two men in me when I entered the seminary. I threw the other one out the window,’” he said.
“A man studying for the priesthood has to be emptied out of his selfishness and all the cruddy stuff that has accumulated in his soul so that Christ can shine through him like the sun shines through crystal clear glass,” Deacon Lickteig said.
“People don’t want me. They want Christ,” he said. “You must always remember it is him and not you.”
Now that he has gone through all that, Deacon Lickteig said he can’t wait to hit the ground running.
“You get to witness amazing things and see the amazing things Christ does through you,” he said.
“This is truly something to rejoice over. He can use all of us to do great things according to his mercy,” he said.
Deacon Lickteig said he will enter the priesthood with Mary always at his side.
“She’s been with me every step of the way and I know she will continue to stand by me as she did by Jesus, all the way until the last breath of the crucifixion,” Deacon Lickteig said.
“She is one of God’s greatest blessings to all of us,” he said.