Fr. Thomas Cook of the Diocese of Winona, MN, got an early start discerning his vocation.
"I wanted to be a priest since I was four years old.My uncle, my mom's brother, is a priest.He
is Salesian of Don Bosco and was always my inspiration," Fr. Cook
said."Even as a young kid, I wanted to be like him.And it was because of his
love for the Mass, which is very, very important.
would come on vacation to our house, or to my grandparents' house and he
would offer Mass for us.I loved to set up the Mass for my uncle.That was the coolest thing ever. [My uncle] would sit in his
chair and pray his
Breviary and I would sit there and imitate him with my own prayer book," Fr. Cook
recalled."My uncle was my Confirmation sponsor.He
preached my first Mass.He
is a really great priest.He
is the one who gave me a love for the Divine Office and a love of prayer.
"I always say that the reason that I am a priest is because of the Mass," Fr. Cook
told me. "As a four-year-old, I started 'playing' Mass.That initial attraction never went away.The priesthood is not just about helping people, not just about counseling, or helping the poor, although that is so very important.The priesthood is about the Mass, and about confessions as well."
When Fr. Cook
was a schoolboy in Austin, Minnesota, he
moved beyond just "playing" Mass.
"I couldn't wait to serve Mass in the parish.I wanted to be some of the normal things kids want to be when they grow up, but never, ever did I lose the desire to be a priest," Fr. Cook
told me. "When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I served Mass every day.
told me that he
sees a lot of irony in that now, in his
role as the Associate Director of Vocations
"All of these things that I do in my life as a vocation director I never did: I never went to a vocation camp for junior high boys, or dinners or retreats for young men discerning vocations."Fr. Cook
stated."For me it was never, 'Let me think about it some more and get back to you.'"
childhood, Fr. Cook
, the oldest of four siblings in his
family, said that his
parents, whom he
calls "the best supportive parents ever," did not try to influence him one way or another about his
...Fr. Cook attended Immaculate Heart of Mary College Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, and earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy.
No one in my family has ever had a passport,'" Fr. Cook
said with a laugh.
In 2001, Fr. Cook
was made pastor of two rural parishes situated nine miles apart in south central Minnesota.He is the only priest at both parishes.
"When the Bishop told me that I was to become the pastor of these two parishes, I didn't want to go.Notice the pattern.This is serious business.Now I don't want to leave," Fr. Cook
October is my context for talking about the difficult issues," Fr. Cook
"In one of my contraception homilies I said, 'I have to tell you this.Not a single one of you will judge me when I die.I am only concerned about Almighty God.And if He
says I shied away from these certain issues, I am going to be in big trouble.' I have to preach the truth with love.
"I know there are some people who say, 'Oh it's October again,' and deliberately decide not to come, but most people are interested, or at least curious enough, to show up and hear what I have to say," Fr. Cook
Cook."Lay Witness (November/December 2004).