Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Grateful for unanswered prayer and support from Diocese, seminarian presses on toward ordination.
Seminarian Tim Segert participates in the choir at Mount Angel Seminary. The Boise native is completing his pastoral year this year at St. Mark’s Parish in Boise and hopes to be ordained as a deacon next year and as a priest in 2023. (Courtesy photo/Mount Angel Seminary)
The following story appeared in the March 12 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register
By Gene Fadness
Those donating to the Idaho Catholic Appeal may have no idea – this side of heaven – of the ripple effect of their generosity.
Tim Segert, a seminarian at Mount Angel Seminary currently serving his pastoral year in Boise, knows that seminary would not be financially feasible for him without the Idaho Catholic Appeal. Indeed, he may not even be Catholic if not for Appeal donations that help finance campus ministry centers. It was through the influence of students involved at Bronco Catholic that Segert, formerly a Baptist, was influenced to pursue Catholicism.
Now, thanks in part to the Appeal, Segert is on his way toward ordination and a spiritual harvest yet to be determined.
Much of the approximate $3 million raised by the Appeal goes to pay expenses for Segert and a dozen other seminarians now studying at Mount Angel, Bishop White Seminary or St. Peter and Paul Seminary in Michigan.
The Appeal also helps meet expenses related to the formation of 20 candidates now preparing to be ordained deacons, as well as funding ongoing formation for priests and deacons. Further, donations to the Idaho Catholic Appeal are also used to help fund the campus ministries at Boise State, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University, ministries that played a pivotal role in the decisions of Segert and many others to pursue priesthood.
“I would have had hundreds of thousands of debt in student loans that would have been hard to pay off on a priest’s salary,” said Segert, who is scheduled to be ordained a deacon next year and a priest in 2023. “I am eternally grateful to the people of God who have made it possible.”
FAITH HAS ALWAYS been an important part of Segert’s life, although he has been Catholic for only nine years. He was raised in a devout Protestant home in Boise, where reading the Bible and going to church were frequent experiences. He remembers being baptized when he was 5.
Segert attended Boise State where he was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and various evangelical churches, including Calvary Chapel. It was also at Boise State that he first encountered committed Catholics. “Previous to that, the Catholics I had met didn’t know their faith and didn’t seem to care. So, I wasn’t that impressed. I thought being a Catholic was more of a cultural thing.”
Until he started dating a Catholic girl, who was not only committed to her faith, but was a convert from a Protestant background. That intrigued him. He knew of many Catholics who became Protestant, but not the other way around. He asked her to share with him what caused her to change her faith tradition. That was when the books started coming. As soon as he would finish one, she would have another, many from Catholic converts like Dr. Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft. Though she offered him books and didn’t hesitate to share her faith, he didn’t feel pressure from her to become Catholic. “She gave me room, she never forced it.”
Her books led to others. “I read dozens of books before I ever attended Mass,” he said. “Intellectually I was becoming Catholic. It was happening very slowly, but it was happening.” He knew it was happening particularly during discussions with fellow Protestants. “I found myself defending the Catholic Church a lot without being Catholic,” he said. It was then that he decided he should start attending Mass. “If I didn’t start looking into it seriously, I would be intellectually dishonest with myself.”
The first time he visited the St. Paul’s Student Center on the Boise State campus, he looked around to make sure no one was watching. “I was embarrassed to be there at first. I didn’t want my Protestant friends to see me going in there.” It was while sitting in the chapel at St. Paul’s that his intellectual conversion also made room for a spiritual change of heart. “I remember feeling someone present in there. I knew it was Christ, I knew it was a good presence. I remember saying to myself, ‘This is the Christ I already know.’ ”
The first time he visited the St. Paul’s Student Center on the Boise State campus, he looked around to make sure no one was watching. “I was embarrassed to be there at first. I didn’t want my Protestant friends to see me going in there.”
It was while sitting in the chapel at St. Paul’s that his intellectual conversion also made room for a spiritual change of heart. “I remember feeling someone present in there. I knew it was Christ, I knew it was a good presence. I remember saying to myself,
‘This is the Christ I already know.’ ”
At the time, he did not understand the doctrine of the Real Presence. However, due in part to that peaceful presence he encountered, “I never doubted the Real Presence as soon as I learned about it.”
He took RCIA from Father Hugh Feiss, OSB, then the campus chaplain, and the late Deacon Chuck Skorro. “They were a huge influence, but even more so was the community fostered at the Catholic student center,” Segert said.
In 2012, during his senior year, Segert was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil.
AFTER GRADUATION from BSU, he entered graduate school at Western Carolina University, pursuing a degree in higher educational administration. He was involved in the Catholic student group there and, after earning his master’s degree, accepted a job at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., as the administrator of three residence halls.
He had not entertained the notion of becoming a priest until a Dominican priest came to speak at one of his young adult activities. “I don’t remember the words he said, but I do remember that his life story was similar to mine. He was a convert who had been brought into the faith intellectually. His story really shook me and gave me a feeling that I needed to do something more with my faith.”
He spoke with the priest afterward, telling him that his talk had “convicted” him. “The priest told me that that might be the Holy Spirit, which terrified me,” he said. “I struggled with that for months, so much so that my hands would break out into a rash. I would pray to God to leave me alone, even praying the rosary more to tell the Lord to leave me alone about this. I get why Jonah ran.”
Precisely the opposite happened. “Priesthood became this persistent thought working its way to the back of my mind that I couldn’t get rid of,” Segert said.
After a couple of months wrestling with God, Segert agreed to attend a re-treat with the Dominicans to consider becoming a priest through a religious order. It wasn’t a fit. “I was disappointed that the Dominicans didn’t work.” Not long afterward, he visited the St. John Paul II National Shrine near the CUA campus. “I was blown away by the millions of lives affected by this man who was a diocesan priest.”
That opened him to considering diocesan priesthood, but then the choice was between the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and his home Diocese of Boise. “You couldn’t pick two more polar opposite dioceses. One has a large land area with a low Catholic population and the other was very densely populated, covering a small geographic area, but lots of Catholics.”
While there are advantages to having so many Catholics as well as fellow priests and religious orders in a small, geographic area, there is also the advantage of hearing frequently from one’s bishop.
“I could tell he wrote it, not a secretary,” Segert said, of a communication he received from Bishop Peter. The Bishop assured Segert that in the Diocese of Boise, he would not be a number or a stranger to the Bishop or anyone in the local church. “You will be known by name here,” the Bishop told him. “That likely would not have happened in D.C.,” Segert said.
Segert enrolled at Mount Angel Seminary four years ago, is now serving his pastoral year, and then returns for two more years beginning this fall.
He is thankful for the sound education at Mount Angel, where he has received his master’s degree in philosophy, “a field I didn’t know I loved until I found it. Most people don’t like it, but I do.”
But, as was the case at St. Paul’s Student Center, it’s been the community formed with fellow seminarians, some of whom are now priests, that has been as important as the intellectual development.
“I feel like we are best friends. They are fellow soldiers who have been in the trenches with me. We’ve grown together and seen a lot of things together,” Segert said. “It can be difficult at times. It’s a special camaraderie, unlike other types of friendships.”
He also loves the stability of the Benedictine spirituality at Mount Angel. “It is a balanced, harmonious life that creates strong community. You know that no matter what else you are doing in life, when you come back to Mount Angel, it will always be like it was. They say you can never go back home because it will have changed. But, Mount Angel, while it isn’t home, is a place that you can go back to that doesn’t change.”
SEGERT’S PARENTS remain actively involved in their Baptist faith. “We are mutually at peace with each other,” he said. “We can talk a lot about our faith without it being contentious. My parents are remarkably supportive.”
That is especially true when you consider Segert is their only child, meaning they will never have grandchildren.
Segert views celibacy and priesthood as inextricably linked. “The priesthood is built on sacrifice. Jesus Christ is sacrifice, the Mass is a sacrifice. The priesthood is built on that cornerstone of sacrifice,” he said.
Catholic priests stand out in the world, partly because of their celibacy, he said. “Many see that total dedication to Christ when they see celibacy,” he said. “It’s a mystery that points to the kingdom of God by its very sacrificial nature.”
His pastoral year at St. Mark’s has included an initiative to get people back to Mass, even those who were not attending before COVID (see story on Page 12). He’s also rebooted the altar server program after it was shut down by COVID. He teaches a religion class at St. Mark’s Catholic School and helps with the RCIA program.
Serving in day-to-day parish life has not been more than he anticipated, but the faith of the people surpasses expectation. “I’m very impressed with the good number of faithful Catholics who live out their faith so well in their daily lives. You don’t get to see that at seminary.”
Segert is fully aware of the challenges faced by the Church: the loss of so many, particularly young people and the divisions within the Church. Despite that, “I have great faith that God is going to do great things in the Church because He said He would. The Church is still built on the solid rock of Peter, and that won’t change.”
“I am most excited about the movement of the Holy Spirit in the church. People are rediscovering what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and the gifts they can receive,” Segert said. “The normal Christian’s prayer can have great efficacy if he knows what the Holy Spirit is capable of doing. I’ve seen miracles occur because of a Christian’s prayer, and I don’t use that term lightly.”
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