May 1, 2023 | Local News, Vocations
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Deacon Christopher Grief incenses the faithful during Chrism Mass on April 4, 2023. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

‘You’ve got to hold the door open and let Christ start working’

After years of following his own path, Deacon Grief answered call


When it came to recognizing his priestly vocation, “people saw it before I did,” said Deacon Christopher Grief, who will be ordained on May 20, 2023 at St. Thomas More Parish in Paducah.

He was a teenager when others would mention the idea – and he said he “shot them down – ‘absolutely not!’”

Deacon Grief also recalls being at his sister’s confirmation many years ago, when Bishop William F. Medley spoke to the faithful about the need for vocations.

He remembers thinking, “Well, that isn’t going to be me!”

Fast-forward 10 years or so, and he had a successful job, his college loans were paid off, and he had a house.

And yet, “I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t happy,” said Deacon Grief.

“I spent a lot of time in Adoration… and in Adoration and personal prayer I realized I was meant for more,” he said. “I got up the courage to call the vocations director and ask what seminary life was like. So began a multi-year conversation.”

The concept required “courage” and accepting that this would be a transition: he was born and raised in Paducah and struggled with the idea of leaving everything familiar.

“I didn’t tell my parents (at first) … I didn’t want them to be disappointed,” said Deacon Grief. 

But when he finally did tell them, his father, whom he had rarely seen shed a tear, “broke down in tears of joy. So began a journey for us all,” he said, with gratitude for his family’s support.

In seminary, he met a “great group of friends (from this diocese and others), which has sustained me,” he said. “We help each other, pray with one another, bring our troubles and concerns to one another.”

Deacon Grief acknowledged that “it isn’t easy, especially in this secular world, to hear that call, to trust in others who see it in you.”

“You’ve got to hold the door open and let Christ start working,” he said. “I spent years trying to shut Christ out because I was only doing what I wanted to do.”

Today, in serving as a transitional deacon – the final step before the priesthood – he has had the experience many times of “getting to listen and realizing people are searching – that they want to be recognized.”

He was especially impacted by his clinical pastoral internship at a hospital: “For me it’s necessary to bring Christ to people in the darkness, difficulties, muddiness of life.”

“Bishop Medley often talks about planting seeds,” said Deacon Grief. “Others planted the seed for me, and I hope to do so for others as well. And it’s ok to know we might not see the fruits of those seeds.”

Originally printed in the May 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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