In call to priesthood, Aaron Esch recognizes God’s generosity
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
This is the first in a series of articles about the six men who will be ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee May 23.
ST. FRANCIS – Aaron Esch knows his journey into the ministry has taken him a great distance. While he felt a subtle tugging at his heart while attending Elkhorn Area High School, Esch, 26, wasn’t certain until several years later that he knew God was truly calling him to ordained service.
Upon graduation from high school, he enrolled in the archdiocesan college seminary program to study history and philosophy.
“The time in college seminary gave me the opportunity to explore and become more certain of my vocation to diocesan priesthood,” he said. “Seminary provided me the time and space I needed to test the call and to continue discernment in a more focused way. Along the way, there were questions and, at times, doubts, but in the end I reached a conviction that God was truly calling me to be a priest.”
A transitional deacon since last October, Esch is in his fourth year of theology at The Pontifical North American College in Rome. Living and attending school so close to the Holy See has provided him with a unique atmosphere for learning.
“It has been an opportunity to experience the rich history and the universality of the church. At the same time, it has been difficult to be away from home. I am very much looking forward with hope to my anticipated ordination in May and the chance to return to Milwaukee for good,” he said. “The preparation for priesthood is a long and often difficult process, but I thank God constantly for having called me to serve him in this way. Finding God’s will for my life has been a great joy for me.”
Raised in a devout Catholic home, he grew up attending St. Patrick Parish, Elkhorn. His parents, Dennis and Barbara, instilled in him a love for the Mass and, despite some curiosity about his vocational choice, have always been encouraging.
“My family and friends have been supportive, but I am grateful, most especially to my parents for their help and understanding along the way,” said Esch. “Of course, they have had many questions through the years about seminary and about priesthood. It has been a learning experience for all of us.”
Esch has learned about his gifts as well as his weaknesses. As with others called to priesthood, he struggles with feelings of his own unworthiness.
“As priestly ordination draws nearer, I am ever more aware of how flawed I am,” he said. “I am convinced that God could have chosen many more qualified people than me. At the same time, I am convinced that he has called me, with my flaws and all. My unworthiness is an invitation to greater trust. The reality of my unworthiness serves to highlight God’s great generosity.”
While recognizing his human frailties and realities, Esch is blessed with a large circle of friends and family who guide him through the difficult, lonely times fringed in uncertainties. Residing within the hearts of each of them is God.
“I have learned how good and faithful God is,” he said. “And I cannot wait to begin my priestly ministry.”
Esch’s desire is to simply be what Jesus intended as he washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper – a servant to the people, called to do for
others as Jesus instructed.
“The priest is at the service of the church, to go where he is needed,” explained Esch. “Therefore, I have no specific plans for the future. Rather, my hope is that as a priest, I remain faithful to the calling and that I remain open to God working in and through me. In other words, to allow God to use me as he pleases.”