Meet Fr. Byron Hagan
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) was once asked, "How many ways are there to God?" He answered, "As many ways as there are people" (Salt of the Earth, 1997). The process of conversion gives us more than a new future. It also gives us a new past. In conversion one reflects upon one's history with God, and in reflection one sees that everything in one's life, no matter how strange or confusing or seemingly insignificant at the moment, is important. Even the uglier parts, the dark places, come to be understood in the light of divine wisdom and providence as integral moments, landmarks along one's path in God. In Christ we are given a new power of memory: the story of our lives that we tell to ourselves is constantly updated, transformed, as we survey it in the light of grace. Each one's path is unique and unrepeatable because each a personal path and each person is unrepeatable.
This is true in a special way for those who find the Catholic Church in adulthood. Like me. Eventually my search for the face of the Lord Jesus in human history led me to the study of ancient and medieval Catholicism. To look for the Lord is to look for the Church, to find the Church is to find him.
Now, a Protestant who wishes to remain Protestant cannot be too careful of his reading. In my reading of historical Christianity I found the Church that made saints and birthed and nourished a civilization. In the beauty of her prayer and spiritual practices I heard the Church calling to me. In the summer of 2005 I began to pray the Rosary daily before a grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe at my neighborhood parish in Fullerton, CA, the Church of St. Philip Benizi. One day I discovered the presence of Our Lord, seemingly by accident, in the adoration chapel of St. Philip Benizi. No one had told me about such a chapel, what it was for, or what it contained. In that chapel, among those praying before a large golden box with a burning candle beside it I felt a Presence. I knew at that moment that the Church which can bring God into the world in this way must be the true mother and home of all Christians. On Easter Vigil of 2006 I was received into the Catholic Church by Fr. David Gallegos, O.S.M. My two sisters were received into the Church two years later at the Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia, and I am now godfather to all five of my nieces and nephews.
In the course of eight years of academic preparation for the priesthood I earned a B.A. in Latin, Catholic Studies, and Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, and a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology from the University of St. Thomas Saint Paul Seminary/School of Divinity, where I published a thesis on the metaphysical theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. In this thesis I wrote about how St. Thomas, in his analysis of the existential structure of the world, shows that all things are created and sustained in being by the almighty and infinitely good God, that all things in the world exist in most intimate relation to him, and how God is more present to us than even we are to ourselves.
Ordained to the diaconate in May 2014 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and then to the priesthood in May 2015, I have served as summer deacon at the Church of Saint John the Baptist, in New Brighton, and as parochial vicar at the Church of the Epiphany in Coon Rapids and Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault, where I was also the director of adult faith formation/RCIA.
I ask for your prayers and for the intercession of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Philip Neri, Blessed John Henry Newman and Blessed Dominic Barberi, St. John Paul II, and of course SS. Clement, Hedwig, and Anthony, as I work at serving the Lord (and all of you!) here in NE Minneapolis.