By Theresa Carson
On Sept. 18, Divine Word Missionaries Carl Gales and Derek Nguyen professed perpetual vows at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Chicago.
There are many ways to describe Divine Word seminarian Carl Gales: student, musician, runner, perfectionist, son, brother, friend. Perhaps the most complete definition is man of God.
In his final year of studies before ordination to the priesthood, Carl, 44, finds that he interacts with people in a new way since first professing vows in 2016.
“The sense of service is more profound to me,” he said. “In a sense, I’m speaking for the Church—not just my views or my opinions. I’m focused on this larger purpose of mission. How are my words and actions reflecting this mission of the Church? There’s a dynamic sense of purpose.”
He finds himself considering the vision of a parish and what the parishioners need.
“I’m responsible for people in the church in a certain sense,” said Carl, who was music director of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City, Mo., before becoming a seminarian. “It’s not akin to having children but there’s a weight placed on your shoulders—like a businessperson who has the bulk of responsibility for keeping a business afloat.”
Carl’s two-year Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo heightened that sense of responsibility. CTP is part of the Divine Word formation process and is designed to give participants an opportunity to live and minister in a culture other than their own.
Carl, who grew up in Phoenix, found that life in the Congo deepened his vocation.
“The Congo taught me how much determination and perseverance I have that I didn’t think I had,” Carl said.
He said that for a time, he did not have contact with family, friends or the social constructs that many people take for granted. During the African nation’s presidential election, officials cut off internet access.
“One and a half months of no communication with many people puts things in perspective,” he said. “When things became difficult, confreres circled around me to make sure I was okay. I never felt abandoned or in danger because they know how difficult it is.”
He also found solace in advice he received during novitiate six years ago. Father Felix Eckerman SVD, who served as a missionary in India for more than 50 years, frequently said, “Go with the flow.”
“Those are four words packed with meaning,” said Carl. “No one way is better than other, just different, different ways to process, to be celebrated. That’s the whole essence of being an SVD, that expression of living.”
Carl and Derek will complete their final year of studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago this year. Carl will serve as a transitional deacon at Our Lady of Africa parish in Chicago. He has been assigned to the Chicago Province after priestly ordination in May.
To read more about Carl, we invite you to read “Former Cathedral of St. Joseph Music Director to Profess Final Vows in the Society of the Divine Word” from The Catholic Missourian and “From Concert Hall to Novitiate, Carl Gales Listens to the Heart.”