“ I’m made to be a priest.”
Before he became a priest, Father Dave Reinhart used to think God was playing a shell game with him.
It went like this: There were three shells in front of him and he had to guess which one had a red ball under it. “If I guessed right – guessed my calling and found the red ball – then I would be happy forever, and if I missed it and said no to God, I would be . . . unhappy and unfulfilled and have a wretched life.”
Sometime during seminary, Father Reinhart says it occurred to him that God doesn’t play games. “God wasn’t calling me to guess . . . He was inviting me to be a priest.”
In that moment, he saw that he could be happy as a married man and that God wouldn’t punish him for choosing marriage. At the same time, though, he had an invitation to consider.
Father Reinhart had gone to St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana after graduating from Ohio State University in landscape architecture. It was his second try at seminary and he went very much aware that his first attempt four years earlier at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, O., had lasted only a semester.
This time, he says, “I sort of went down thinking, ‘I’ll do it for two years. I’ll get a master’s degree. Nothing’s lost.’ Well, as it turned out, God had a lot more in store for me.”
During his discernment process, a monk at St. Meinrad asked if he would be coming back after the summer break. “I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Oh, don’t tell me – you’re not coming back if you fall in love.’ And he said, ‘The question isn’t whether you can fall in love. Everybody can fall in love. That’s how we’re made. He said, ‘The question is whether you’re called to be a priest.’”
That was another key moment and Father Reinhart says that over time, he grew more comfortable with the idea that he was being invited to be a priest. Ultimately, of course, he accepted the invitation.
When he was ordained, Father Reinhart expected to be a parish priest for his entire ministry, but he discovered again that God had other plans. After four years as an associate pastor, he was asked by his bishop to consider doing graduate work in school administration. In 2005, he became president of Cardinal Stritch High School, a co-ed school in Oregon, Ohio. In addition to his duties at the school, he also served as pastor of a small rural parish. In 2010, Father Reinhart was released by the bishop to serve a term as a military chaplain with the Diocese of the Military, where he currently serves.
“I saw my ministry at Cardinal Stritch High School as a place where I got to be with my parishioners everyday,” he says. “Whereas a parish priest . . . sees a lot of them on Sunday, I got to talk to them everyday. They saw the good and the bad in me. I saw the good and the bad in them.”
Amid the myriad demands of school administration, and subsequently as military chaplain, Father Reinhart has discovered the first thing he has to do each day is pray. He usually prays with others in the morning, but he also prays parts of the Liturgy of the Hours alone during the day, and often stops in the chapel for evening prayer on his way out. In addition, he celebrates Mass daily.
Mass, he says, is the most meaningful part of his life as a priest. “If I looked at all the things I do in a day or all the things that I’m about, the thing that keeps me a priest, keeps me focused on what I’m about is Eucharist and presiding at Mass. That’s the thing that I couldn’t do away with. I could be a high school priest or not, I could be in a farm parish or a city parish. I could be in an active place or a not-so-active place, but Mass is the thing that keeps me coming back, where I keep finding meaning, where I keep finding sustenance for myself and for what I’m doing.”
When it’s time to slow down and relax, Father Reinhart says he enjoys walking and getting together with friends for dinner at a restaurant. He also enjoys riding his motorcycle.
After more than a decade as a priest, Father Reinhart can say he is happy he responded to the invitation to priesthood. “I’m glad I accepted it because it’s me . . . This is how I’m made. I’m made to be a priest.”