In recognition of National Vocation Awareness Week, St. Mary Catholic Schools talked with Fr. Matthew Rappl, a St. Mary Catholic High School graduate and current priest for Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Weyauwega and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Manawa, about his journey to the priesthood, impact of St. Mary Catholic Schools in his life, and the joy he has found in his vocation as a priest.

Fr. Matt attended St. Gabriel Elementary, Seton Catholic Middle School (now St. Mary Catholic Middle School,) and SMCHS, graduating in 2009. After high school, he studied Catholic studies and philosophy at the University of St. Thomas and then attended St. Francis de Sales Seminary. Fr. Matt was ordained to the priesthood in 2017, and prior to his current parish assignments, he served as priest at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Oshkosh and as the chaplain at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh.

1.  How has St. Mary Catholic Schools impacted you since graduation?

I know that SMCS gave me a firm foundation in my Catholic faith. In a secular society, the temptation can be to find my worth and value in “what I do.”  Faith teaches that our value and worth aren’t things that we make for ourselves. It’s rooted in being united with God who made us to love and be loved.  Having a living relationship with Jesus Christ has been the greatest source of blessing in my life.  I’ve cherished the opportunities to celebrate God’s love in the sacraments with some of my classmates and friends from SMCS!

2.  What has your personal path looked like since graduating from SMCS?

I attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., for my undergraduate studies, majoring in Philosophy and Catholic Studies, before concluding my seminary education at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. I was ordained a Catholic priest in July of 2017, and started ministry at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh. I also was assigned to the St. Mary parishes of both Omro and Winneconne, and did chaplain work at Lourdes Academy.  In November of 2019, I received a new assignment to Sacred Heart Parish in Manawa, and Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Weyauwega. Covid presented some unique challenges as a pastor, so I’m glad I got to spend at least five months with them in normal settings before the stay-at-home orders took effect.

3.  When did you decide to enter priesthood?

I was about 5 years old when I decided I wanted to be a priest. My classmates knew it was something always in the back of my mind. I didn’t seriously start thinking about it until junior year, and the mentorship of several holy priests guided me in that process of discerning where God was calling me.

4. If a younger person were thinking about taking the vocational career route, what would your advice be for them?

Talk to joyful priests about their life. Ask them why they do it. I even did my English class career shadowing project with a priest. It was great!

5. What do you get most out of your vocation?

Get ready for a great adventure. It’s not an 8-5 kind of job. It demands everything. The greatest joy I have had in life is seeing the work of God being accomplished in the hearts of His children. Priests are blessed with a front row seat.

6. If you did not enter priesthood, what career do you think you would have pursued?

I think I would have been a teacher, but doing some teaching has made me appreciate teachers even more!

7. What is something about you that might pleasantly surprise the SMCS community?

My first Mass as chaplain at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh, I told the students that I was open to “converting” to being a Knights fan.  They gave me a lot to root for! However, I’ve learned since then that you can’t take the Zephyr out of the boy, so-to-speak. Go Zephyrs!