By Tony DeGol
Physical fitness is a big part of Clayton Housler’s life.
He works out a lot, but some of his heaviest lifting has not happened in the gym.
Housler is beginning his first semester as a Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown seminarian at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore – one of two new diocesan seminarians this year.
His path there took a few turns and ultimately required some serious soul searching and decision making.
It really was a journey not unlike those of many men who pursue a priestly vocation, but as he gets ready for this next chapter, he is especially aware of everything that led him to this moment and very grateful for the clarity he feels right now.
Housler, who grew up in St. Marys, Elk County, is one of 10 children in a family in which the Catholic faith is front and center.
“Every night in our home was Rosary time, and every Saturday night at Mass we were all expected to be in the same pew,” he relayed.
TV was fine, but Mr. and Mrs. Housler were not fans of their kids playing video games. That time, they believed, could be better spent praying or being outdoors.
“They put us on trial, but we failed,” Housler said with a chuckle, remembering when his parents gave his siblings and him a chance to prove they could balance video games with serious business.
“As an adult, I see why it had to be like that and why my parents wanted it like that,” Housler admitted.
His parents’ focus seems worth it because all of their adult children remain practicing Catholics.
Housler attended Saint Vincent College in Latrobe with the intention of discerning monastic life in the Benedictine community. He studied Philosophy and Theology.
Eventually, he stepped back a little from his religious vocation plans and also dated.
“I kind of had a foot in both waters, which was frustrating,” he explained. “I wasn’t sure where I was being led. I thought marriage might be my vocation, but if the Lord’s calling you, He’ll never stop.”
After graduation, he taught at a private school and explored other career opportunities, all the while still keeping the vocation option on the table.
He became more open to discerning the diocesan priesthood, specifically in this diocese instead of his home diocese of Erie. He credits his relationship with Altoona-Johnstown seminarians he met at Saint Vincent for the pull he feels here.
“I strongly believe the Lord is going to show me why I was called to this diocese,” he predicted.
Some guys may be experiencing the same tug of war that Housler did before reaching this point. What is the Lord asking of them? Housler has some advice for those men.
“You really have to be honest with yourself,” he stressed. “Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel. Have a deep prayer life and eliminate any distractions and noise as much as you can. It’s very hard to discern with worldly distractions.”
Orientation at St. Mary’s is happening this week, and classes begin next week.
“I’m excited for a fresh start,” the 25-year old said. “I’m looking forward to the structure of the seminary and giving all I can and making the most of all the pillars of my formation.”
Not surprisingly, Housler will continue lifting weights while he attends seminary.
Fortunately for him, the real load in his life is much lighter.
[Top photo: Clayton Housler with his niece and nephew on their First Holy Communion day; Bottom inset photo: the Housler family — Clayton is one of 10 children.]