Whether you know him as Fr. Sizemore, Fr. Dave, or just “Padre”, this is one priest you’ll want to meet. Fr. David Sizemore has been the pastor of St. John Neumann Parish since 2005. Under his direction, St. John Neumann has grown at an unprecedented rate with over 1,500 families and new ones joining everyday. This parish is known for masses that begin with a joke (family friendly of course), masses held out in the meadow behind the church, a vibrant youth group and much more. We recently had the opportunity to ask Fr. Dave a few questions about what makes this Padre tick. Here’s what he had to say:
Face Forward: When did you know you wanted to become a priest?
Fr. Dave: I started thinking more seriously about priesthood in college. I was a full-time student at Ohio University, working full-time hours at a local business, with a full-time girlfriend. None of this, of course, seems the proper context for the “call” to priesthood. Our God works in strange ways. 😉 In my first few years of college, the Lord just kept vigil at my heart, calling me to spend more time with him in prayer. I began to attend daily Mass, praying before Mass and after Mass, devotions like the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, but also just walking around the interior of the church and talking with God about whatever was on my heart. Consistently, one of the things on my heart was the idea of priesthood. Ultimately, I knew I had to go into seminary, to at least give discernment of priesthood a fair chance. I had prayed about it, talked to my parish priest about, my family and some friends, read books, gone up and down the “roller-coaster” of being favorable and unfavorable toward becoming a priest. I knew the only way to really discover if God was calling me to priesthood would be to place my life in an environment and a period of time where I could get the guidance and formation I need to discover, one way or another, if I was or wasn’t being called to priesthood. I am so glad I gave seminary a try. I am a priest today. 19 years a priest and loving every day I am alive and able to serve the Glory of God and His people.
Face Forward: What’s your favorite thing about being a priest?
Fr. Dave: Definitely celebrating the sacraments, particularly having the great privilege of being the priest who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gets to change ordinary bread and wine into something out of this world…the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and to literally feeds the souls of men, women and children with this Bread of Life for their spiritual journey. I enjoy preaching and teaching. I like meeting new people, getting to know them, and becoming a part of their lives and their families. Working with a parish staff, helping to develop them in faith and equip them for ministry, then seeing them go out and bring souls to Christ. Helping people who are hurting find hope. Plus, the time I get to spend in personal prayer and reading, time with my family and friends, and time for daily exercise. What a life!
Face Forward: If someone was interested in becoming a priest, what is the first thing you would tell him to do?
Fr. Dave: Pray. A big part of discerning priesthood is developing a prayer life, and through prayer asking the Lord what He wants you to do with your life. I would also suggest he join a “discernment group.” We have one here at our parish, and I know our diocesan vocation director runs one. Other parishes also have these groups. As one gets a little more interested in going deeper into discernment, spiritual direction is important. This is meeting, one on one, with a priest to discuss the finer points and trends in your life that might be showing your vocation. Ultimately, I think, for a man to really know if he is being called to priesthood (or not), he should spend some time in seminary. It is never a waste of one’s time pursuing God’s will.
Face Forward: What struck you the most about Pope Francis during your visit to Philadelphia?
Fr. Dave: Definitely the Papal Mass. I was holding a ciborium full of unconsecrated hosts. As we were concelebrating with Pope Francis, I kept thinking to myself… “In a few moments, I am going to go out into the streets and feed the souls of the people with the Eucharist, consecrated by the Vicar of Christ on earth.
Face Forward: What were you feeling when you were distributing the Eucharist to all the pilgrims gathered in Philadelphia?
Fr. Dave: While out in the streets with the Eucharist in my hands, folks were literally stretching their arms across the barricades and calling out to receive the Body of Christ, thousands upon thousands of people. It was a deeply moving scene. The entire city had become a church, all seeking Christ through His Vicar.
Face Forward: Are there programs that are offered at St. John Neumann that you think other parishes would benefit from adopting?
Fr. Dave: Alpha is a great “gateway” experience to get people active (or re-active) in their faith. Discipleship groups, we have found at SJN, are an important conduit for on-going faith formation for our adults, teens and kids, such as That Man Is You for men, Walking with Purpose for women, id916 for young adults, YDisciple for high school, and Encounter and Decision Point for middle school. The Melchizedek Project is a wonderful resource to help guys who want to discern the possibility of priesthood.
Face Forward: How do you motivate parishioners to get involved?
Fr. Dave: I mostly preach about growing one’s faith. I don’t get into politics or the business of running a parish, etc. Then, we back up the invitations to faith with a variety of opportunities for our parishioners to grow their faith. If you can grow a love for God in people’s hearts, help them to start praying and teach them how to pray, and provide occasions for them to learn about God and share their lives with other people, then the Holy Spirit will provide all the motivation and the individual and family will be receptive to these divine promptings toward faith.
Face Forward: What are you most proud of about your parish?
Fr. Dave: The people. I see more and more of our parishioners desirous for God in their life and eager to share Christ with other people.
Face Forward: Who is the most influential person, besides Pope Francis, that you follow on social media?
Fr. Dave: Bishop Robert Barron. I absolutely love everything he is doing in social media, his homilies, talks, YouTube videos, and Multi-media programs for parishes, such as the Catholicism series. He is a brilliant priest who is able to take the faith and present it in such an attractive and nourishing way.
Face Forward: Okay, we have one last thing to ask you. We call these our Fast 5 Faves. Here we go:
What is your favorite…
Food: anything Italian
Saint: St. Peter
Prayer: Divine Mercy Chaplet
Thing to do in your spare time: prayer, read, exercise