By Judith Costello and Mary Costello
For The Catholic Messenger
He received a little prod toward his current vocation at age 6. But Jake Greiner didn’t tell anyone in his circle of family and friends in Keota. As time went on it, Greiner became more interested in things outside of the church. Yes, he helped teach religious education in high school, attended Mass and was an altar server, but the idea of becoming a priest had been suppressed.
“I told God I wanted to be a doctor,” says the pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. He headed for college, studying pre-med, but found some of the courses to be very difficult. He began attending daily Mass at the University of Notre Dame. His prayer life grew stronger. Then a priest asked him, “Have you ever thought about being a priest?”
Greiner, 37, admitted to his early sense of calling. “But I want to be a doctor,” Greiner told the priest. The response he heard was, “Maybe you should ask what God wants you to do, instead of telling God what you want to do.”
Greiner spent the next four-and-a-half years in seminary with the Holy Cross priests who teach at Notre Dame and made his temporary profession. But then came a crisis. It was clear to the young man that community life wasn’t for him.
He returned to Iowa and got his provisional teaching license in Iowa City where he began teaching science at a public high school. He also joined the Army National Guard. During that time, he explored again the idea of vocation.
He realized that his discerning out of the Holy Cross community didn’t preclude a calling to the priesthood. “The diocesan priesthood began to make sense. I talked to the diocesan vocation director at that time, Father Marty Goetz. He confirmed that this was my calling. I went back to seminary and was ordained in 2013.”
During that time and after ordination, Fr. Greiner continued with the National Guard and prepared for active duty, but Bishop Martin Amos said he was needed in the parish. Fr. Greiner served in Muscatine and then in Knoxville Melcher, and now at Our Lady of Victory. Life at the large parish with an elementary school is very busy. Fr. Greiner has also taught theology for seniors at Assumption High School in Davenport.
“I like every age group but I think I have a passion for working with young people because I know my own life would have been a bit easier if I had stronger faith formation and support in high school.”
Fr. Greiner said he and his two siblings were all strong-willed as children. “Our parents said they didn’t care what we chose to do with our lives as long as we were gainfully employed. My older sister is a veterinarian and my younger brother is an engineer. My parents had questions about my choice but they are very supportive.”
Fr. Greiner said there is no “good time to become a priest.” The priesthood is always under attack by the devil and in these times of scandal it is difficult. “But God gives special graces to those who respond to his call when things are challenging.”
Most days, this young priest says he feels in awe of how much trust people put in him. “From the vocations committee that prayed me through seminary to the anonymous parishioner who sent a note saying I am doing a good job, I feel supported.”
He says that even when he feels he has failed in his tasks, God transforms what seems like mistakes and makes good come out of it.
In working with young people Greiner sees the need for all adults to step up and be good role models so that youths see faith, virtue and truth being lived out.
“Our young people need to see that God is offering a radical invitation to respond to his call.”
(Judith Costello and Mary Costello are members of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Vocations Committee.)