Father Ed Shikina was ordained to the priesthood in May, 2018, and currently serves as the parochial vicar at St. Brendan the Navigator, in Hilliard, Ohio. But his discernment to the priesthood was not a typical experience, as he did not enter the seminary until he was 34 years old. While his experience may not be typical, it is not uncommon, and he wants to “let people know that older men can be called to the priesthood” and that it is a “very real possibility.”
Shikina was raised Catholic, attended church regularly, and was a student of CCD, but says that his family did not practice their faith at home. So it is not surprising that he did not have a prayer life when he began studying at The Ohio State University and stopped attending church. At the age of 24, he began to feel lost, finding no joy in what he considered to be a dead-end job. Searching for something, although he didn’t know what, he decided to go back to church.
His first visit back to Mass felt like going home again. Church felt familiar, and God became real to him. So when a postcard arrived in his mail, seemingly out of the blue and not long after his return to church, that questioned “have you ever considered being a priest?”, it seemed to speak to him. Nevertheless, he wasn’t quite ready and still had a long process of discernment ahead of him to determine if God was calling him to the priesthood. In fact, it would be 10 years before he entered the seminary.
Throughout those years, Shikina purposefully chose to live a life immersed in faith. He became actively involved in his parish, and sought to learn more about the church and his faith. He did not, however, seek the guidance of a Spiritual Director or the Vocations Director. (Although he does not recommend this approach, and suggests that men seek guidance early on in the process). Fr. Ed would often feel pressured when people would comment that he would make a great priest; this was a very personal decision and he did not want to feel like he was just a means to fix a shortage of priests.
It was actually his parents taking a leap of faith to live a life of service to others through the Peace Corps in the Ukraine that helped Shikina realize he was procrastinating in determining how he could live a sacrificial life in service to others. He discovered “I want people to know God like I know God.” And so at the age of 34, he entered the seminary. The process of discerning his call to the priesthood was not over, as he was still hesitant. During his time in the seminary, he realized that God was giving him the time and space to make the decision himself – there would not be a grand sign from God, but rather the quiet confidence to “say yes for myself.” He realized that while he might be sacrificing the vocation of marriage, he was gaining a life of bringing people closer to God.
While there may be unique challenges to entering the seminary later in life – such as relatability to men who are much younger than you – there are also many unique benefits. The wealth of knowledge and life experiences that he acquired before becoming a priest has proven to be invaluable to Father Ed in relating to those to whom he ministers. He says, “There is great value in becoming a priest at an older age.” If a man is discerning a call to the priesthood, but feels like he is too old, he should consider the many years still ahead of him that he can “offer good priestly services”, and live a life of service to others by bringing them to God.