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June 16, 2017 10:00 PM

Picked For The Priesthood

Sioux Falls, SD

Earlier this month, six men were ordained as priests in the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls. It's a relatively high number for the diocese, but even more eye-catching is the fact that three of the candidates came from the same class at O'Gorman High School. 

So what makes a self-proclaimed band geek, a choir member, and a theater student all want to go into the priesthood?

The idea of becoming a priest first came to Tyler Mattson at O'Gorman.

"I remember a lot of my friends were saying, how they want to, 'I want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer,'" Father Tyler Mattson said. "I remember thinking, 'I have no idea what I want to do after high school.'" 

School was going well, but nothing really grabbed his attention.

"So kind of in that state of confusion, I just heard a quiet voice on my heart say, 'Be a priest,'" Mattson said. "And I thought, 'That was odd,' because I had never thought about it before." 

Only after graduation, he didn't follow that path.

"I went to the University of South Dakota, and while I was there, once again, still just that, small voice, 'Be a priest,' so that's when I decided to apply, and it's been a blessing ever since," Mattson said.

The call came in high school for his 2009 O'Gorman classmate Joe Scholten, too.

"For me it was clear by my senior year that this was the direction that God was calling me in," Father Joe Scholten said.

"I think he was even voted 'Most Likely to be a Priest' in our class," Mattson jokes.

That class also held another friend, Andy Thuringer. Yet Thuringer didn't have that same high school epiphany at O'Gorman.

"It wasn't 'til I went off for a year to college and, in fact, my good friend Joe had just joined the seminary, and was pursuing the priesthood, and [I] kind of thought in my head, 'Oh people do that?'" Father Andy Thuringer said.

As it turns out, they do. And in time, so did he.

"I began to pray about it. And it became clear, over time, that I couldn't ignore what was going on in my heart, the call that I think God was putting there," Thuringer said.

Earlier this month, Mattson, Scholten, and Thuringer, all members of O'Gorman High School's class of 2009, took their final vows and became Catholic priests. Back in their high school days, the trio was already connected.

"I was closer friends with Joe, we were in all sorts of activities together, we were in plays and competitive speech," Thuringer said.

"I was a total band geek, so I was involved with all the band stuff, and I knew Joe fairly well, and then I actually wasn't really friends with Andy. Knew who he was, but it wasn't 'til college seminary that we became good friends, ended up rooming together, actually," Mattson said.

"We were on the same floor together, and we really got to know each other, and then he became perhaps my best friend during my seminary years," Thuringer said. 

For the now-Father Thuringer, Father Scholten was a big brother of sorts.

"To have, I mean, we were on the same age, but to have almost an older brother kind of figure who's been going through it already, and to be able to kind of follow in his footsteps a little bit, was definitely a grace," Thuringer said.

So what is it about the class of 2009?

"Yeah I've had people ask why, what about that year or about our friendships, or, the thing I always bring it back to is that the diocese for years now has been praying for priests," Thuringer said.

"I think it's just the mysterious promptings of God's grace, why he would work three in this class," Mattson said.

"I think it's a testament to the life of faith in the city of Sioux Falls, and the life of faith at this high school, that there's something here that's more than what we produce on our own," Scholten said.

Something they had in common as they each took different journeys to today's shared destination.

"We each had our own path, the Lord called us all in different ways," Scholten said.

Scholten and Mattson will serve parishes in Sioux Falls, while Thuringer will be in Mitchell.


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