Some would say it’s an unlikely story. But in my experience, every life story is.
My life began with deep religious roots. My father’s side of the family is Roman Catholic, my paternal grandmother went to Mass every day. My mother’s side of the family was Anglican, my maternal grandfather was an Episcopal priest who came to this country with my grandmother from Northern Ireland. I loved both of my grandmas, and at an early age, I began to fall in love with church.
Church always felt like home, and it still does, even though my understanding of church is richer and broader than it was then. My parents raised us Catholic. I grew up attending public schools and C.C.D. classes on Wednesday nights. Sensing a call to the priesthood, I attended a high school seminary in Wisconsin, St. Lawrence, and graduated from a Catholic High School in my hometown. I eventually joined the order of Franciscan friars that ran St. Lawrence, the Capuchin-Franciscans, and began a path to the priesthood.
Like every home, church has brought a mix of experiences throughout my life. In the mid-1980s, beginning at the age of nine, I was sexually abused by a priest, the pastor of a small Catholic parish in a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. While with the Capuchins, I struggled with questions about celibacy and sexuality, questions that those who were forming me in religious life seemed unwilling to help me answer. I remember flying home to Wisconsin from New York City convinced that I was saying no to God, to the call to the priesthood, to ministry, perhaps even to the church altogether.
But what I have found in the years since is that vocational discernment isn’t a yes or no question or a series of yes or no questions.
My life went in a very different direction for a while, a bit more than 20 years. I built a successful career in politics and professional communications. I fell in and out of love. Both of my beloved grandmothers died, and I lost a true love to suicide. I struggled a great deal, living with a series of serious mental health conditions including bipolar disorder and PSTD from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences. I often self-medicated, with alcohol for many years, and then with crystal methamphetamine beginning in 2009.
Throughout, my faith continued to be where I felt grounded, where I sought and found nourishment, and where I felt most at home.
I’ve spent years studying theology, religions, and the practice of preaching. At the same time, I’ve found periods of recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction, and relapse. In 12-step fellowships I have found acceptance and community, and a deep experience of the spiritual gifts that come from one addict or alcoholic helping another.
I continue to discern God’s call in my life today. It’s clear that now, decades removed from my childhood experience of call, I continue to be called to ministry, rooted in the traditions that have been handed down for generations, yet eager to find and share God’s healing and loving presence wherever it may be found. And so, I teach, I write, I minister to others, I preach, and I share stories from the journey. I passionately advocate for recovery, my own and for everyone else who seeks it.
I’m a prodigal misfit. A prodigal, in the sense that I have often tried to run the show myself, discarding God’s will for my own. Like the Prodigal Son from the New Testament, I have often squandered everything I have been given, only to find myself walking the long road back home, to God, and God’s beloved community. I’m also a misfit, one who never really has truly felt like he fit, yet always trying to find a place in the world that makes sense.
Perhaps you can relate, perhaps you are a prodigal misfit too. Let’s find each other, and others, and build community along the way. Let’s share stories, our own, and the great stories of our traditions. Together, I know that we can help share love, and in the end, help save lives.
I am a preacher. I know, I can see your eyebrows raising as I type. So, here’s what my identity as a preacher means and doesn’t mean. First, it doesn’t mean that I stand on street corners in downtown Minneapolis—or downtown anywhere for that matter—standing on a soapbox. For me, it also doesn’t mean that I am an ordained priest or minister. It does mean that a number of years ago I sensed a call to preach, to connect the way God was showing up in the Bible, or Scripture, with the way God was showing up in the world and people’s lives, including my own. I am a preacher, an itinerant one, meaning that I travel and preach to folks where I’m invited, leading retreats and preaching in worship spaces around the country about how God is showing up today.
I earned a Master of Divinity degree from Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, MN, and am currently studying in the ecumenical Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.
I am a public theologian. I am an independent scholar interested in the convergence of faith, culture, and public life. My scholarship informs my ministry as a preacher, and vice-versa. My research interests include homiletics, liturgy, pastoral care, addiction studies, liberation theology, Catholic Social Teaching, the theology of Vatican II, Franciscan studies, among others.
I am a writer. My work has been published in a number of places, including the Liturgical Press, Celebration, U.S. Catholic, American Educator, and the academic journals Obsculta and Transpositions. I am currently working on several book-length projects.
I am an addict in recovery. About 10 years ago I was introduced to crystal methamphetamine and quickly became addicted, using daily for several months before nearly everything in my life came crashing down. I went to chemical dependency treatment for the first time in the summer of 2009, and the years that have followed have included a mix of long-term sobriety and relapse. I’m grateful to be clean today. Treatment, along with participation in 12-step fellowships, and my faith saved my life. I’m passionate about helping others find a similar path.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest. It happened in the mid-1980s, in a parish in rural Wisconsin.
I live with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and PTSD. I was diagnosed in 2002. I’m a passionate advocate for an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness and work to help faith communities minister to people who live with mental illness and their loved ones.
I used to work in politics. For over 20 years, I worked on campaigns, and for elected officials on the local, state, and federal level, and helped advocacy organizations communicate and tell their stories in the media.
I live in Minneapolis. I moved here in 2008, and according to the unwritten rule among Minnesotans, I am now officially a resident of the state after the 10-year trial period. The honor comes with a hotdish cookbook and a set of oven mitts. I was born in Michigan, grew up in Wisconsin, and have lived in New York City and Nebraska. I love movies, theater, trying out new restaurants, and winning at cribbage.