Fr. Christopher Droste
It's been just over a year since Fr. Christopher Droste was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Evansville. As he talks about the past year, his voice reflects the joys, sadness and gratitude he has already experienced.
His vocation journey was a winding road, with stops in Nashville, TN, and Austin, TX, and side trips to other careers. Growing up in Darmstadt, IN, in a Catholic family, he attended a rural parish in nearby Haubstadt and went to a Catholic high school.
After graduating in 1998, he looked for something he could feel passionate about and discovered music. He learned to play the guitar and began composing songs. That took him to Nashville, where he also attended a technical school as a backup. He then worked as a heavy equipment mechanic at coal mines in the Evansville area and played music at night.
That led him to Austin, where he immersed himself in the music scene, but also regained a sense of faith. In his search for meaning in his life, he returned to prayer. "I wanted something greater than myself," he recalls. He admired the talent and energy he found in Austin, but he noticed a disdain for the devout, down-home Christians he grew up with.
He began a study of his faith to find out where he belonged, and it soon overtook his interest in music. A priest at a parish he was attending then asked the crucial question: Have you ever considered priesthood?
Six years of study later, Fr. Christopher is in his second year as associate pastor at two Evansville parishes: Christ the King and Holy Spirit. A few months after he arrived, it was announced the two parishes would merge the following July. "It was an intense time," he says. Combining two parishes, each with an elementary school, was a lot of work.
"The challenge of this merger has been really exciting," says Fr. Christopher. "It has forced me into the lives of people here more deeply because of the demands of the work that we've had to do (to prepare for the merger)."
While that's been challenging, it's also brought him into the joys and sorrows of people's lives. He talks quietly about a teacher he got to know well. Shortly before Christmas, she came down with an autoimmune disease and died 10 days later.
With the pastor out of town, Fr. Christopher was suddenly in charge of informing teachers and students and counseling those who were grieving. After the initial announcement, he led a prayer service for the grief-stricken students and staff. He remembers looking out over the church and seeing their tears. "It really made me understand what we're about and what we're here for," he says. "It's about embracing everything, every aspect of life, and that there's meaning in all of it."
The transition into priesthood itself was another first-year challenge - relocating, beginning a new assignment, meeting new people. To help with that, he attended The Associate Pastor workshop held at Saint Meinrad's Institute for Priests and Presbyterates (IPP).
"I'm really impressed with how attentive that program is to the needs of priests. They're very aware of what's going on, what the problems are, what the challenges are, what resources they can provide in response to those things," he says.
And while his priesthood journey will have more twists and turns in the future, Fr. Christopher feels IPP's work can strengthen the bond between priests and between priests and their parishioners. "What I see emerging is this unity of life," he concludes. "We have a desire to be together and seek God."
Summer 2016 update: Fr. Christopher is now pastor of Divine Mercy Parish (a new parish that combines St. Anthony and Sacred Heart parishes in rural Dubois County). He also supervises seminarians who have ministry assignments in his parish and serves as a spiritual director for some seminarians on the Saint Meinrad campus.