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In girlfriend’s ‘no’ he also heard God saying ‘yes’

By Katherine Wartell

When Father Jarett Konrade, of St. Isidore’s Catholic Center, was contemplating becoming a priest, he looked to God for a sign.

It wasn’t more than a week later that his girlfriend dumped him.

Of course his newfound singledom was only part of the catalyst. Choosing to be ordained was what Konrade called a “transformative process.”

Konrade grew up in Abilene, the fourth of six children, where he was raised Catholic. When he graduated high school, he attended Sterling College, a school that describes itself as a “Christ-centered liberal art college.”

Konrade attended the college for three years on a sports scholarship. He said his exposure to other denominations caused him to ask faith questions.

During college he also started to date a girl who took him on a retreat one weekend in Wichita. There he met a young priest from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita who broke his mold of what he thought a priest was.

Before that, Konrade said, he thought of priests as old and un-relatable.

But during that weekend, he said, he experienced, “God’s knocking on the door of my heart.”

Though that retreat was the main instigator in becoming a priest, the notion still scared Konrade.

After the experience, he said, he made a deal with God that he would continue in the relationship with his girlfriend while continuing to look into the priesthood and wait for a sign from God.

When that sign came,  Konrade attended Conception Seminary College in Missouri and spent four years at the Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.

He was ordained as a priest in 2005 when he was 27.

Konrade, who has been with St. Isidore’s since September, was first assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Salina, where he served as an associate pastor for three years and a vocation director for three years.

Konrade then served as a pastor for one year in Wilson before he was asked whether he would be interested in serving at St. Isidore’s.

Because Konrade’s own journey into priesthood really began during his college years, the opportunity to serve college students excited him.

The months since Konrade moved to Manhattan have been a “whirlwind,” he said. “I knew St. Isidore’s was very active and I was not let down.”

He’s also pleased to be in a town where the grocery store is open past 7 p.m.

Konrade is following in the shoes of Father Keith Weber, the former chaplain of St. Isidore’s who served for over 25 years.

On a typical day, Konrade says, he rises at approximately 7 and is in his office by 8:30 a.m. There, in between attending to correspondence, he mixes in counseling meetings with parishioners. A few nights a week he teaches classes and three nights a week there is a 10 p.m. mass. On the weekends, there are five masses and he said all of them are well-attended.

On Thursdays, he said, there’s a tradition of going out to local bars with those of age.

Though Konrade is enjoying his time in Manhattan, he said one of the challenges of the priesthood is being prepared to be pulled out of wherever he’s living. “In the past seven years, I’ve lived in six different residences,” he said. Still, he said, that keeps it exciting. “It’s hard to be stuck in rut,” he said.

“You make close friendships and relationships and then you have to move on,” he said, “It’s hard to say goodbye but then you can say hello to new relationships.”

But Konrade said one of the most rewarding aspects is being able to become a part of people’s lives. He said he is automatically welcomed by families by virtue of what he represents.

Konrade plans to spend Christmas with his parents, who will drive in from Abilene to attend the Christmas Eve and Christmas day masses. “They are kind of my roadies,” he said.

He’ll celebrate New Year’s with his five siblings in Abilene.

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