New seminarian credits eucharistic adoration, service for his vocation
Last fall, nine men were accepted as the newest seminarians for the Diocese of Peoria. Among them was Nathan Hopper, who is attending Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland and in his first year of pre-theology studies.
“I am so excited to be studying to become a priest for the Diocese of Peoria,” said Hopper, 23, a member of the Class of 2023.
His parents are Wayne and Dee Hopper, who are from Neoga and Sigel, respectively, and he has a brother, Alex, 20, and a sister, Maddi, who will be 12 at the end of March. The Hoppers have lived in Normal and been members of Epiphany Parish there since Nathan was born.
He attended Epiphany Catholic School and then Normal Community High School. Becoming an active member of Epiphany’s LifeTeen program, “I was blessed to develop a real passion for the faith and an understanding of how it can be integrated into daily life,” he said.
After graduating as valedictorian from Normal Community High School in 2012, Hopper went to Illinois State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in accountancy. That wasn’t all he found, however.
MORE THAN A DEGREE
“I was always more dedicated to my time spent at the campus Newman Center,” he said. “The Sisters there, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, helped me to grow much deeper in my faith and to learn my responsibility to continue seeking out ways to grow it daily.”
While at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center, he served as a sacristan for three years, which allowed him to develop a greater appreciation and reverence for the Mass. Hopper said he also had an opportunity to meet many priests of the Diocese of Peoria and that helped him gain an appreciation for their role, as well as recognize his own calling to enter the seminary.
“After graduating from ISU in 2016, I worked for a year in a public accounting firm in Bloomington, which I absolutely loved. Even during that year, though, I was in frequent contact with Father Tim Hepner and I knew that I would be going to seminary soon,” Hopper explained.
Father Hepner is diocesan vocation director of recruitment. (See the related story, Diocese is blessed with nine new seminarians as vocation awareness seeds take root.)
“The biggest aid to my discernment was definitely my devotion to Eucharistic Adoration. . . . My time in adoration provided me the chance to openly talk with God about everything, not the least of which is my vocation.”
LEARNING THROUGH SERVICE
Hopper said another important influence on his vocation was the number of chances he has had to serve the Lord’s people.
“In my time as a sacristan at ISU, the last year that I spent with Epiphany’s high school ministry, and a lifetime of being raised by selfless parents who are constantly looking to serve others, I got a taste of the joy (and challenges) to be had in God’s service, and I can’t imagine anything better,” he said. “I also can’t fail to mention all of the amazing priests in our diocese who have shown me, just by being themselves, the joy and possibility of the priesthood.”
He called formation at Mount St. Mary “such a blessing” and said, “I am so thrilled to think that one day (God-willing) I will be ordained to serve the Lord and His people with my life in our diocese.”
He also expressed his thanks for the parishioners in central Illinois.
“I am so grateful to the entire diocese for all of the support and prayers that I have received thus far. I have especially enjoyed the letters from children that I get from schools occasionally,” he said. “Please pray for me in the coming years as I continue to pray for you and our diocese. God bless!”
See also: Msgr. Ketcham’s influence on vocations recalled by young priests, seminarians.