.- Raised Lutheran, Deacon Doug Pierce considered careers in chemistry, classics, math and music. He thought about getting married and having a big family. But after he became Catholic in 2002, Deacon Pierce felt called to priesthood.
“I decided that I wanted to be able to live a celibate life,” he said, “because in that way, I’d be able to serve God in a unique way that I wouldn’t be able to if I had a family.”
Deacon Pierce was an undergraduate student at St. Olaf College in Northfield when he decided to convert. Amid the college life, he went to daily Mass and adoration, and discerned his vocation.
“As I was beginning to think about it, people would mention that, ‘Maybe that’s what God is calling you to,’” he said, “even without me asking about it.”
He attended an annual vocational retreat with Archbishop Harry Flynn. He transferred to St. John Vianney, graduating in 2006, and then entered St. Paul Seminary.
Deacon Pierce said he is looking forward to celebrating Mass and hearing confessions after being ordained.
“[Confession] is one of the things I look forward to most, actually,” he said. “I’ve experienced its power, and I want to be able to give people the most healing that they can experience, which is God’s forgiveness and God’s mercy.
“To say those words of absolution over someone and to help them grow in their faith, I think that’s the most important thing.”
Deacon Pierce spent last summer as a deacon in Faribault, where he participated in many aspects of ministry.
“It was a phenomenal experience,” he said. “I enjoyed every aspect of ministry there. We had Hispanic ministry and prison ministry. I loved that.”
Deacon Pierce also worked with some home-schooling families in the area, leading to his first invitation to celebrate Mass.
“The first Mass request I have is the graduation Mass for the home-school families in Faribault, so it will be No. 4,” he said. “It will be great.”
Learning to minister
Deacon Pierce said he learned some important lessons while ministering in Faribault and at St. Bernard in St. Paul, including patience and reaching out to people in different ways.
“In order to effectively minister to people [one must] really know where they’re coming from and reach out to them in a way that really impacts them,” he said. “For me, I tend to minister to people in ways that I would like to be ministered to, but that’s not necessarily effective. So I’ve worked on that.”
In one of his homilies at St. Bernard, Deacon Pierce spoke at Saturday Mass about Moses and the burning bush, and he compared it to the Eucharist. But, he said, the congregation didn’t seem engaged.
After Mass, the pastor, Father Mike Anderson, asked Deacon Pierce what he thinks of when he has a divine experience. The pastor then suggested the experience of walking into the Cathedral for the first time.
Deacon Pierce altered his homily to talk about that excitement, and the parishioners were much more engaged, he said.
“It worked out after my pastor suggested something they could grasp,” he said. “He’s been very helpful. I wish I could always have him there.”
As a Spanish speaker, Deacon Pierce especially enjoyed his experience with Hispanic ministry in Faribault. He hopes to continue that ministry in the future, he said.
Among his many gifts to the priesthood, Pierce said he believes he is sensitive because of different family experiences in his past.
Also, as a newer Catholic, Pierce said he will bring enthusiasm in teaching the faith.
“Becoming Catholic, I learned a lot in that stage,” he said. “I like explaining the faith, describing why we believe something.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Spirit, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.