Living in the midst of scarcity made a lasting impression upon Zeke and has been a theme in his life.
Zeke grew up in a military family and moved a lot throughout his childhood. His dad retired and his family moved to Rushford, New York. He said it was quite a culture shock moving from the military bases to Rushford. It is located in the Appalachian cultural region which has historically struggled with poverty. Zeke had never been exposed to such institutional poverty, addiction and prevalent suffering from physical, mental and social illnesses.
“The scarcity seeps into your consciousness and it set a tone for my life,” said Zeke.
Zeke attended college near Rushford and after graduating he did a year of service for Catholic Charities in Buffalo. He helped connect youth in need with social services. It was a very difficult year. He wasn’t trained for the position and didn’t feel comfortable acting as a social worker. His values were challenged and it was difficult to see a broken system not meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. However, that year taught him compassion and he grew in greater awareness of spiritual poverty. After 15 years living amongst this poverty, Zeke realized he desired to be a servant of Christ but in a different geographical area.
A friend mentioned a camp in Wisconsin that was hiring missionaries. When he was offered the position, Zeke took a great leap of faith. After he accepted, he had ten hours to pack up his belongings and jump on a train to Wisconsin where he had no idea with whom he’d be living and working.
“I had never been to Wisconsin. There were so many differences. For example, the majority of the people were employed and working jobs during the day, the yards were kept up and neat. It took some time to adjust,” said Zeke. During those two years as a missionary, he started spending more time in silent reflection. He discovered his brokenness and how it had hurt others in his life. Eventually, his reflection shifted to learning how he could try to be an agent of healing when he encountered others’ brokenness. It was a difficult experience to go through, but helped him start to grow in learning how God’s love and mercy are enough, not the material things of life.
After Zeke’s job at the camp ended, he bounced around from several negative job experiences and he encountered scarcity. He knew he needed to lean into God’s grace. He had put his trust in the Holy Spirit before and he knew he needed to do that again.
“I kept praying, ‘I believe, Lord, that you’ll meet my needs. Help my unbelief,’” said Zeke.
Zeke was applying for many positions. One day he expressed his frustrations about his job search with his girlfriend, Kristin. She told him that her home parish was looking for a middle school youth minister. She knew he really liked working with middle school students and encouraged him to apply. While he was also interviewing at two other places, St. Cecilia parish was the first to give him an offer.
“It was meant to be. It’s so good to work in a place where there’s a sense of mission. The clarity is much appreciated. It’s a common belief that comes from the top that if you want people to grow in their faith, you have to shepherd the shepherds. That’s something that I value greatly as a middle school youth minister and working with youth and catechists.”
Zeke and Kristin married and now have a precious baby son. He feels God’s many blessings in his life.
“When I was in high school, I desired to be rich and influence others and the way people think. I held on to attachments. Through prayer and silence, it brought about healing and a better sense of the Holy Spirit. I still need to keep asking myself, ‘how much is enough?’ I’ve come to learn that my main purpose is to love God, my wife, son and others the best I can.”
Through a lot of soul searching, prayer and service, Zeke has felt the Holy Spirit working in his life.
“It’s not easy to really look deep within yourself and see your faults. But, as I journeyed through various jobs and experiences, I still felt empty. It took a lot of prayer to see that with each step along the way, I was called to renounce something. Through lots of prayer, silence and serving others, I was able to see the great abundance in the fasting rather than the abundance in material things,” said Zeke.