Player Turned Priest July 17, 2008

Player Turned Priest

Chase Hilgenbrinck was a soccer player for the New England Revolution. He played for them after a long stint playing in Chile.

Until Monday.

That’s when he left his soccer career to begin a different calling:

Hilgenbrinck accepted the calling… to enter a seminary, where he will spend the next six years studying theology and philosophy so he can be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

“It’s not that I’m ready to leave soccer. I still have a great passion for the game,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wouldn’t leave the game for just any other job. I’m moving on for the Lord. I want to do the will of the Lord, I want to do what he wants for me, not what I want to do for myself.”

Hilgenbrinck had his initial interview for the seminary last July, followed by a rigorous application process. There were written tests, personality screenings, background checks, fingerprinting and meetings with three different psychiatrists to make sure he had the right temperament to be a priest.

At first, he told no one, lest they influence him one way or the other: “I really wanted it to be a decision between me and God,” he said.

There were more tests in January, and in March Hilgenbrinck learned he had been accepted to the seminary. A few weeks ago, he met with [New England vice president of player personnel Michael] Burns and Revolution coach Steve Nicol.

“We weren’t exactly sure what he was going to say, because it’s not what you usually hear,” Burns said. “When he said it, I was glad. I was glad for him. This is something that he clearly wants to do, and we wish him all the best.”

I’m shocked. Who knew priests had background checks?!

Anyway, say what you will about him attending Seminary. When was the last time you left your well-paying job to pursue something so radically different?

(via GetReligion)

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • David D.G.

    When was the last time you left your well-paying job to pursue something so radically different?


    Then again, when have I ever had a well-paying job to leave?

    ~David D.G.

  • Polly

    I do have a (relatively) good paying job and I’m giving serious consideration to leaving it for something that may not pay well at all.

    Since I became an atheist, I’ve heard the calling…

  • When was the last time you left your well-paying job to pursue something so radically different?

    When I was 11 my dad left a good job as a restaurant manager and took a 50% pay cut to go into full time ministry as a Christian camp director.

    I followed in his footsteps I guess as I went into ministry right out of college and have never had a “well-paying job”.

    To me it’s been worth it.

  • I left a steady job as a priest last February, when I realized I just did not believe any more.

    I’m shocked. Who knew priests had background checks?!

    The process for me was:

    – Speak to my parish priest.
    – Be interviewed by the vestry (church council) of my parish.
    – Have the vestry write a letter of recommendation to the bishop.
    – Speak with the bishop.
    – Write a detailed history of my family life, church involvement, education, work experience, volunteer work, interests, hobbies and faith, ending it off with three people willing to act as references.
    – Be interviewed by a diocesan committee (the Commission On Ordained Ministry or COOM).
    – Have COOM write a letter of their recommendations to the bishop.
    – Be told that I needed more life experience.

    Three years later, after moving to a different parish in a different town (though in the same diocese) and working in a public library:

    – Speak with the bishop.
    – Speak with the priest of my new parish.
    – Be assigned four parishioners to meet with monthly until they feel they can, in good conscience, write a letter of recommendation to the bishop.
    – Speak with the bishop, again.
    – Write out my spiritual journey.
    – Be interviewed by COOM, again.
    – Update my detailed history to cover the last three years.
    – Write an essay on the difference between ordained and lay ministry, with special focus on why I wish to be ordained.
    – Be interviewed by a priest and two laity over a weekend, with many other (twenty to thirty) postulants from neighbouring dioceses (each postulant meeting with three interviewers).
    – Write an essay on why I wish to attend seminary, to be read by all of my potential professors.
    – Attend three years of seminary, including Clinical Pastoral Education at a hospital (which required a criminal record check).
    – Be interviewed annually by all my professors at the seminary, including the principal.
    – Be interviewed annually by the leaders of COOM.
    – Complete a four month internship.
    – Convocate successfully from seminary.
    – Go on an ordination retreat with a mentor chosen by the bishop.

    Then I was ordained. At any point up until the ordination was over, I could have been refused, or postponed. A diocese north of here also includes psychiatric exams as a regular part of the discernment process.

    Not every cleric goes through all of this, but this was my experience.

  • Jen

    When was the last time you left your well-paying job to pursue something so radically different?

    When I was in Catholic College, I got to know one of the priests for a brief time*. He got use of what was escentually a “company” credit card to take wayward souls like myself out to dinner. The priests also got free El passes, free housing, free food, free health care, free classes if they wanted to take them, and were taken care of after they retired. Now, they were also at the mercy of the Catholic church, and could get transfered any time they wanted, and technically, they couldn’t own anything (but then, they also lacked for nothing, as far as I could tell). Except for the lack of sex and the religion, I would probably have joined (except, of course, I am the gender Jesus was not, and therefore am unworthy).

    *This was the same priest I have mentioned before: his version of talking to me was calling me evil.

  • Larry Huffman


    So did you have a formal background check (secular firm specializing in, or law enforcement)…or were you fingerprinted and checked out? Also, are the psychiatric exams that were given in the other dioceses performed by outside practices or were the examiners church employed or contracted (if you know)?

    Not to belittle the process at all, it does seem grueling and anxiety filled, as you are trying to begin a new profession…one which you had great passion for. But, the examination that you described was very church centric. It would seem that, while they were very concerned about your knowledge and passion and even temperment for the calling…they did not appear to care if you were a former criminal or other such unwanted person.

    My former church did the same though. No background checks. Just the calling from god and theological knowledge. I think that is normal…but I have to admit I was a little surprised at the level of background checking the subject of the story underwent. Your experience is much more what I thought it was like.

  • Anne

    I did. Left my six figure job as a marketing person to move to the country and stay home with the kids.

    At the time I wasn’t an atheist. Now I cannot imagine going back to cubicle world for any amount of money. Life is too fricking short and valuable to serve a corporate master. “Doing mindless menial labor at exorbitant wages” as my friend George used to say of us managers.

  • Pustulio

    I’m always a little wary when people start talking about their “calling”. When I was in college I knew a girl who had declared a major she was totally unsuited for, because she was convinced it was a calling from god. When the first semester was over and she had flunked all of her major related classes, god suddenly had a new calling for her. Last I heard, god had changed his mind half a dozen times before telling her to quit school.

  • Larry,

    The criminal record check I needed to get for the Clinical Pastoral Education was the same one anyone else needs to get to work with those considered “vulnerable” (whether categorized as such by age or ability) and was conducted by the RCMP (I’m Canadian). The psych exam I did not have to take but friends of mine did was administered by a professional psychologist. I don’t know much more about it than that.

    That said, the focus appeared to me to be first on my temperament, then my theology, then anything else. On the other hand, I have lived in this diocese all my life, and many of the members of that first church council that interviewed me had known me since I was four, and most of the people on COOM had known my parents for twenty-some years. I can’t say whether people with less-known histories needed deeper background checks.

  • SnugglyBuffalo

    One of the churches I used to go to wound up having a child molester working in the children’s ministry.

    The worst part is, when he was exposed, I think he managed to get off the hook for it.

  • Darryl

    I quite my good-paying job (with lots of potential) 9 years ago to be a musician. Yes, I’m crazy. But, at least I’m not like the soccer player–I’m not leaving one useless career for another.

  • It’s not just Christians who leave lucrative positions for those that offer a chance to serve. This atheist left a good paying job for one that paid a lot less but offered what he thought was a great moral reward, too.

  • Well, I didn’t know priest had a background check, but that doesn’t surprise me. As psychologist I know very well personality test for professional orientation about future carreers there are profiles to be a priest of one kind or another.

    Also, a more “extreme” example: In Mexico, in Espinoza, Nuevo Leon, there is a cult/religious group called Fidencism (Fidencismo in spanish). It’s derived from Catholisism and most followers don’t know it’s a different thing… but that’s another matter.

    In Fidencism there are “cajitas”, people who get possesed by a spirit to heal people. And to become a cajita you don’t need to be a strong follower: it’s enough to fill a job aplication and have an interview. Where the heck is the mysticism there?

  • TXatheist

    Pat Tillman (atheist)left the NFL to serve his country.

  • Siamang

    I know a Hollywood producer who just walked away from it all to join the seminary. Nice guy.

  • When was the last time you left your well-paying job to pursue something so radically different?

    I did it six years ago. I quit a job that paid over $40,000 a year to take one that paid $10/hour, because I wanted to focus on my writing and the better- paying job was too demanding of my time and energy.

    I wasn’t calling myself an atheist then (I think I was calling myself an agnostic). But my lack of belief in a personal afterlife was definitely a strongly motivating factor in my decision. I hit 40, had a classic mid- life crisis (minus the sports cars and cosmetic surgery and affairs with much younger people), and realized that if I really wanted to be a serious writer I had a limited time to do it in.

error: Content is protected !!