Notre Dame alum says a preoccupation with prayer led to the priesthood and to administering his own parish in Michigan.
Two thousand Notre Dame alum Eric Fedewa had just graduated from Oakland University and was well on his way to a career in marketing. He had a good job in the automotive industry and he and his girlfriend of three years were discussing wedding plans.
But at the same time he'd been noticing an ever-so slight "pull" in a decidedly different direction.
"Around the last month of college, I had a 'reconversion' after a Mass when I was prayed with and began living my faith more fully — and also wanting to begin doing what Jesus wanted me to do," Fedewa said. "A few months later, I was asked to pray about the priesthood by a parishioner at St. Lawrence Parish in Utica, which is the parish in which I grew up."
A long story shortened, all of that prayer and contemplation ultimately led Fedewa to the priesthood and to his current position as pastor of St. Basil the Great Parish in Eastpointe, Mich.
"During the time right after college, when I was working at the Volkswagen/Audi headquarters in Auburn Hills, my girlfriend started to take classes to become Catholic," he said. "But she didn't know I was praying about the priesthood until October of that year when she told me she felt like she was dating a priest. I had been reluctant to tell her because I feared it would break her faith, but now it was clearly out in the open!"
Fedewa then spent nearly six months praying about his potential life switch in front of Jesus at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament after work, and he also met regularly with the vocations director for the Archdiocese.
"By the end of January 2005, I decided to spend a weekend at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, which clinched it for me. It was time to make the step and apply for acceptance into the priestly formation program there," he said. "That was the moment I had to end my relationship with my girlfriend. Thankfully, she had a strong sense from the Lord that this was coming. She subsequently was baptized, confirmed, and received her first Eucharist that spring at an Easter Vigil Mass and chose my father to be her godfather!"
In June of that same year Fedewa found out he was accepted into the seminary, but since he already had a degree, his time living and studying in the seminary was estimated to last about six years instead of the more typical eight. He said that during the seminary years, each seminarian gets reviewed annually to find out whether or not he will keep moving through the program, assuming that he wants to continue and that the team of formation priests feel each seminarian is still called to the priesthood.
"From 2005 to 2007, I was living in the undergraduate residence in the seminary while getting a bachelor's degree in philosophy," he said. "Then I moved to the graduate residence and after four more years of additional full-time classes as well as human, spiritual and pastoral formation, I received a master's degree in Divinity (theology) and a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (STB), which is the European equivalent of a master's degree."
The STB degree is granted through the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy, after one completes a four-year comprehensive written and oral exam, which Fedewa passed with flying colors. He was then ordained a priest on June 11, 2011, in the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament by Archbishop Vigneron.
Soon after his ordination, Fedewa began an assignment as associate pastor at St. Anastasia in Troy, which lasted a couple of years, followed by three years as an associate pastor at St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills. He also served as chaplain at Marian High School during his time at St. Hugo.
"I was then assigned as associate pastor of the Guardian Angels parish in Clawson for a little over a year, and since November of 2017, I am administrator and pastor of St. Basil, having my own place for the first time."
Now, well past his college years and his girlfriend, Fedewa said he's very happy.
"I would never want to be anything other than a priest, which is not just a job, but an entire way of life," he said. "Of course, just like it is sometimes for people in a marriage, there can be challenges to being a priest. One of the most difficult challenges for me is deciding what must take priority of my time, as the 'things' I can do are many but the time to do them is short."
But Fedewa said that just as it was when he was seriously contemplating the priesthood, prayer still is most central in his life, for without it, he said, he could become distant from the Lord, and then what would he have to offer his parishioners?
All challenges aside, however, Fedewa said there are many, many more positives about his vocation than negatives.
"One of my favorite experiences since becoming a priest is when a family invites me over for dinner," he said. "That is when one can really see that the Church is most fully expressed by both marriage and celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. While they seem so different, in actuality they need each other, because as the priest sees the sacrifices a mother and father make for their children, they in turn see the sacrifices the priest makes for the sake of his spiritual children, to whom he brings spiritual life through the Sacraments."
"One of my favorite memories from NDP was when, at the beginning of Fr. Joe's [Hindelang] church history class, he would inevitably have to say to Bill Holland and me: 'Eric and Bill…are you ready to begin class?!' That's because Bill and I would no doubt be absorbed in blabbing together about whatever topic mattered to us that day."
Fedewa said that to jump from that babbling in high school to now being a priest — where among other things he's listened to group confessions with the likes of Fr. Joe, Fr. Leon and other priests — is quite amazing to him.
"Back in high school, I think I probably never once thought that one day I would serve as a priest alongside the ones I had at NDP!"
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.