By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
A persistent and recurring feeling led Deacon Sean McKinley to discern a call to the priesthood.
While grade school classmates dreamt of becoming doctors and policeman, Deacon McKinley thought “being a priest was cool,” he said in an interview at the Maloney Center last week.
Deacon McKinley, 36, will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Louisville, along with Deacon Wilfredo Fernandez, on May 28 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will preside.
The seeds for his vocation were planted early in his life. He grew up in Elizabethtown,
Ky., and attended St. James Church and School. As a child and teen, Deacon McKinley said, he spent a great deal of time at his local parish, where his mother was a youth minister.
“Our parish priests were pretty personable and open,” he said. “I always found them easy to talk to and to relate to.”
Two of those priests — Fathers William Fichteman and Richard Sullivan — served as role models and mentors, Deacon McKinley said.
The visibility and simple presence of his parish priests, he said, was important. As he got to know them, he said, he came to see a priest “as a real person.”
Like many cradle Catholics, the first teachers of his faith were his parents — Scott and Cindy. Deacon McKinley said it was always a priority for the family to attend Mass and also for him and his brother, Ryan Massa-McKinley, to attend a Catholic elementary school.
“Even though they were pretty young parents, they figured out how to make Catholic tuition work,” he said.
He also noted that both of his grandmothers were “role models in the faith.”
“They really helped to instill that Catholic identity and Catholic faith,” he recalled.
Following his graduation from Elizabethtown High School, Deacon McKinley earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration in computer information systems at the University of Louisville.
During his time in college and after, he volunteered and worked part-time in youth ministry at various parishes in the archdiocese, including the Catholic Campus
Ministry at U of L, St. James in Elizabethtown, Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Pius X and Epiphany churches.
Soon after he completed his studies at U of L, Deacon McKinley moved to Huntsville, Ala., where he secured a government-contract job developing web applications. During his time there, he continued his work in youth ministry at two parishes — St. Joseph and Our Lady Queen of the Universe churches.
“I liked the idea of family life and raising kids. I was getting into a good career path and thought that’s where everything was headed,” he said.
Despite success in his career, thoughts of the priesthood came to the forefront more and more, he said. Through prayer, he said, he was able to discern his vocation and ultimately followed his calling to seminary.
After his ordination Saturday, Deacon McKinley is looking forward to his role as “priest as father” in his priestly ministry, he said.
As the oldest grandchild, he said, he spent a lot of time babysitting his brother and cousins. That mentor role, combined with his work in youth ministry and also his role as godfather to numerous children, have had a profound impact on his life, he said.
“The idea of family and fatherhood was always something I desired. In a strange way, God has provided that in a lot of different aspects,” he said.
Deacon McKinley recently completed his master of divinity degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
He has been assigned as associate pastor of St. Gabriel Church. He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving on May 29 at 12:15 p.m. at St. James Church in Elizabethtown.