By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
While standing on stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., Deacon Michael Martin couldn’t shake the idea of becoming a priest.
It was a thought that had persisted since childhood and one that would continue to nag him for another five years before he entered the seminary.
Deacon Martin, 52, will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Louisville, along with Deacon Casey Sanders, on May 27 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will preside.
Deacon Martin felt the desire to become a priest since he was 8 years old, standing in his kitchen when he proclaimed to his aunt: “I’m going to be a priest when I grow up.”
“I knew at that small age that I wanted to be a priest,” he said in an interview last week.
He grew up in Indianapolis and attended the parish school at St. Simon the Apostle Church and later Scecina Memorial High School. During that time, the Franciscan priests at his parish had a significant impact on his faith, Deacon Martin said.
“There were really great priests at my grade school. They were always good mentors to me growing up,” he said.
The two people who most significantly shaped his faith and relationship with the church, Deacon Martin said, were his parents, the late Henry and Jean Martin.
“My parents showed us the importance of prayer and of being raised in the faith,” Deacon Martin said, noting he has two siblings, Anthony Martin and Kellie Martin Allen.
While in college at Cardinal Stritch University, the thoughts of priesthood continued to bubble to the surface, he said, but other interests began to present themselves, as well.
Music served a profound role in his young life, he said. He played drums and wrote songs, some with George Green, who served as a song writer for John Mellencamp. After a meeting with music producer Rusty Wilcoxen, where they discussed plans for a benefit concert, Deacon Martin began to contemplate turning his passion into a career.
“I could have tried to do something with music. I probably could have made it. I had connections. But all the chemistry wasn’t there,” he said.
What was there, he said, was a desire to help people.
While Deacon Martin considered a career path in the music industry, he was working in the health-care field.
“I’ve always had the sense of wanting to help people, to serve people in some capacity. I’ve always wanted to make a difference,” he said.
For numerous years in the 1990s and early 2000s, he served as an operating room assistant. He worked at various hospitals, including Baptist Health Louisville.
During this time, he was active at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany, Ind., where he was involved in the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference and as a eucharistic minister. Later, he began attending Good Shepherd Church in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood, which eventually became his home parish.
A yearning for the priesthood was still in his heart, Deacon Martin said, but the timing wasn’t quite right.
By the early 2000s, both his parents’ health began to decline. First, he cared for his mother who had bilateral lung cancer. Following his mother’s death in 2007, he tended to his father, who had Alzheimer’s disease. His father eventually moved into a long-term care facility.
And at long last, Deacon Martin realized his dream to enter the seminary in preparation for priesthood in 2010.
These days, Deacon Martin doesn’t worry about his lengthy journey to his vocation.
“Some of us move slower than others,” he quipped.
In fact, Deacon Martin said he believes his experiences in the operating room and caring for his parents aided his formation.
“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to take care of my mom and dad. It will help me be able to serve people where they are,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. God puts us on the path that we need to be on.”
Following his ordination, Deacon Martin said he looks forward to “being with the people of the archdiocese.”
“After seven long years (in seminary), I finally get to minister to the people of the archdiocese. It’s time to go out there and start working — if you will — in the vineyard. It’s what I’m here to do,” he said.
Deacon Martin said he knows his parents will be looking down on him with pride on the day of his ordination.
“If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be. They’d be very proud,” he said.
Deacon Martin completed his master’s in divinity at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wisc., earlier this month.
He has been assigned as associate pastor of St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky., and Holy Name of Mary Church in Calvary, Ky. He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving May 28 at 11 a.m. at Good Shepherd Church, 3511 Rudd Avenue.