I never thought when I entered college as a Religion major in 1979, that 30 some years later I would be an Old Catholic priest. I did not grow up Catholic. I was a member of the United Church of Christ. My plan was to finish college, go on to seminary and become a UCC pastor. Well, God had other plans.
After college, I was living in St. Paul MN with my brother. I attended St Paul U.C.C. and was involved in the choir there. I was still deciding on seminary. I decided to wait. Macalester College in St Paul had a “design your own” master’s program. I applied and got preliminary acceptance pending certified transcripts from Lakeland. It was then that I found out that I was actually two courses shy of my degree. Surprise!!! So, I worked a retail job and eventually moved to Madison, WI. While in Madison, I worked for a small newspaper selling advertising. I moved back home to Appleton about seven months later.
While back home, I worked as a CNA for five years. This was very fulfilling, but took a physical toll on me. I went to work as a bartender at a Tennis Club in town. I remained active in my church. Singing in the choir, and serving on several committees. I was trying to save up the money to complete my degree at Lakeland. The pay was not very good and saving was not easy. I prayed for guidance. God answered, but not the way I wanted. The answer was “NOT YET”.
In 2008, I met my good friend, Rick Phillips. He had attended an Independent Catholic Church when he was in grad school in Illinois. Knowing of my desire to be a pastor, he suggested contacting the bishop that was in Springfield, IL. I did so and thus began the road to ordination. God finally said” NOW”!!!
Rick and I began conducting prayer services at our home. We soon had a friend join us. I was appointed Lay Administrator and SS Cyril and Methodius was formed. We moved and set up a chapel in our basement. Over the next 3 months we grew to 5 members.
In December of 2010, I was ordained to the diaconate by the Most Rev. John Reeves- Presiding Bishop of UICC. We continued to draw more people some joined us some just visit now and then.
May 28, 2011 is a date that I will never forget. It was the day that I felt God’s grace and the Holy Spirit stronger than ever before. ORDINATION DAY!!! Not only was it my ordination, but our little parish hosted National Synod. At that time, we were celebrating Mass on Sunday instead of Saturday; so, in addition to all the festivities on Saturday, I celebrated my first Mass (solo) the next day.
Looking back, I never thought that I would be anything Catholic. Yes, I always have enjoyed the pomp and ceremony, having experienced Masses over the years at family weddings, funerals, etc. (my mother’s father grew up Catholic). I never thought that a blend of the progressive theology of my upbringing in the UCC and the pomp and ceremony of the Mass could ever exist! To my surprise and delight, I found it!!
Since becoming involved in the Old Catholic Church, I have truly found my spiritual home. A home filled with love, collegiality, deep faith, and oh… did I say LOVE?? I feel blessed to be in the company of my brothers and sisters in Christ. With God’s Grace, I hope to remain in His service for many, many years.
Rev. Fr. Andrew Smith grew up in Appleton. WI. He studied Theology, Philosophy and Sociology at Lakeland University in Sheboygan, WI and completed his theological studies at Holy Redeemer Seminary of the UICC. Fr. Andrew was ordained to the diaconate in December of 2010 and to the Order of Presbyters in May of 2011. He entered his novitiate in the Order of Preachers Old Catholic in August of 2016 and took his three- year vows in May 2017. Fr. Andrew is pastor of St Dominic Old Catholic Church in Oshkosh, WI. He enjoys cooking, reading, writing and is an avid history buff.