Father Geoffrey A. Brooke, Jr., of Peanut Butter & Grace’s new series “Brick by Brick with Father Brooke” knew at a young age that his life was a miraculous gift. What he didn’t know until later is that God had really big plans for him: the priesthood.
Editor’s Note: Father Geoffrey A. Brooke, Jr., a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., occasionally will be writing and recording a new video series called “Brick by Brick with Father Brooke” for the Peanut Butter & Grace community. Stay tuned for opportunities on the Peanut Butter & Grace Parent’s Facebook page to ask Father Brooke questions for the series.
by Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.
While the purpose of my video series will not be about vocations or the priesthood, this day of prayer provides a great opportunity for me to share my vocation story. The extra bonus is that it also helps me to introduce myself to the Peanut Butter & Grace community.
From the football fields to the seminary
Growing up I played every sport you can imagine. Like every other kid in America, I dreamed of “going pro.”
Unlike most kids in America, I had my share of health problems when I was very young. On a few occasions, the doctors seemingly ran out of options and told my parents there was nothing they could do. Yet miraculously, I recovered.
This became central to my understanding of my identity as a child. Whenever I would meet aunts, uncles, or other adults, they would always say, “We really remember when you were born!” Others would tell me, “It’s truly a miracle you’re alive.”
This created in me this idea that God is the one who gives us life, and somehow, we owe it back to him. So while you can see the easy parallel from that foundation to the priesthood, it would take me many years before I could make such a connection.
Encountering Christ in the face of the poor
By the time I was a teenager, I was able to play high school sports, but I knew I would never be one of the lucky few who actually become professional athletes.
Instead I set my heart on becoming a sports journalist. I loved talking, and I loved sports, so why not bring the two together? When I was still in high school I began writing for my local town paper.
At the same time that I was writing and playing football in high school, I also got involved in my parish youth group. In my mind participating in youth group was the way to give my life back to God. While participating in weeklong service immersion trips, I encountered Christ in the face of the poor. These encounters forced me to wrestle with my faith, the nature of God, the Church, and to make sense out of my past struggles. In these experiences, the first seeds of a vocation were planted.
Attempting to Meet God in the middle
Surprisingly to some, I went to public school my entire life until seminary. While I was involved with my youth group for years, it’s something I kept fairly hidden while I was at school. From Monday to Friday, I was a football player, nothing more.
Eventually I opened up with others and shared just how involved I was with my faith. As I had feared, this led to ridicule. However, what those who criticized me failed to realize is that they only helped me to grow in my faith and discover my vocation. Facing those challenges forced me to ask whether not I really believed in Christ, in the Catholic Church. Was it all worth the pain?
During that difficult period, when I first started thinking about the priesthood I wanted nothing to do with it all. I decided to make a deal with God. Instead of the priesthood or sports journalism, I would meet him in the middle: religion journalism.
As I threw myself into religion journalism. I had to discern working within Catholic press or secular coverage of religion. I pursued both avenues. That journey led me to Washington to work with Catholic News Service at only 19 years old.
Eventually I had to wrestle with a deeper question: Was I having this so-called “success” in journalism at a young age because that’s what God was calling me to do? Or was it because I was afraid of the priesthood, running in another direction? When I came to the realization that it was more of the later than the former, I decided to stop running; I entered the seminary.
Finding Answers through Prayer and Discernment
It wasn’t until I was back in college at the University of Missouri that I was able to begin to receive answers to those questions. How did I get those answers? Through prayer.
In particular I was given an class assignment, which I had done dozens of times at CNS. but due to some quirks of the task, I was unable to fulfill the requirements. When I took that frustration to prayer, I realized it was time to give God a chance, and I began my application process.
It’s important to note that it isn’t a guarantee that one will become a priest once one decides to enter seminary. Seminary is a place of deeper discernment.
For me, the first two years studying philosophy were spent at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. My major seminary time was spent in Rome at the Pontifical North American College. Both provided me with the environment to discern, grow and be formed for priesthood, to which I was ordained in 2015 for the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo.
So here I am today, still loving sports and still participating in religion journalism by freelancing for CNS and now through my video series “Brick by Brick with Father Brooke.” I look forward to helping you build up your family’s faith, one brick at a time.
Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr., is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City. He is currently completing an S.T.L. in Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Additionally, he contributes columns to Catholic News Service. He can be found on all social media platforms with the handle @PadreGeoffrey, and his web site www.padregeoffrey.com