For Ben Hasse, BS ’01, the whispers started during his senior year in high school in Kingsford, Mich., a small hamlet on the southern border of the Upper Peninsula known as the home of charcoal briquettes.
But for Hasse, the initial whispers weren’t so loud they couldn’t be ignored.
“God whispers,” he said recently from his home at a Mundelein, Ill., seminary, “much more than he shouts.”
Which is probably a good thing. Had God’s whisper been loud enough or persistent enough to really get Hasse’s attention, things may have turned out differently.
He may never have become an Eagle Scout and earned a trip to represent the entire Boy Scout nation on a trip to Antarctica. There would be no Purdue degree in forestry (another in Spanish) or Ross Award in 2001 as the outstanding senior at Purdue. And, most certainly, no 31-month stint in Central America as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Ah, but there’s the rub. Had Hasse not served the Peace Corps in El Salvador, the hectic pace his life had taken on at Purdue may never have allowed time to slow down long enough for him to respond to the whisper.
“Toward the end of high school, I began to sense that I was being called to the priesthood, but I didn’t address it,” Hasse says. “It scared me.”
But the voice never went away.
“It was there all through my time at Purdue,” Hasse says. “But I was going at such a frenetic pace there, 18 or 20 hours a day, that I just didn’t have the time to slow down and really listen. It wasn’t until I went to El Salvador with the Peace Corps, and I was there six or eight months, that I was able to step back and realize that God was calling me.”
Two years in El Salvador opened Hasse’s eyes to many cultural differences, but not in the obvious ways.
“There were very few Catholics among my Peace Corps class,” he says. “I realized, because of my faith, that I was more different from the other Peace Corps volunteers than I was from any of the locals.”
Hasse entered the seminary just west of Chicago in September 2004. He has taken a couple of return trips to El Salvador to renew friendships and to check on his holdings. He is the proud owner of a cow and a couple of acres of ground.
But his home, until his ordination next year, is the 600-acre campus occupied by about 200 fellow students.
Hasse expects to be ordained into the priesthood in June 2009 in his home diocese of Marquette, Mich.
“I’m enormously excited about the prospect of returning home,” Hasse says. “I love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”
Some of his best memories are of the deep woods around Kingsford. His love of the woods led him to a Purdue degree in forestry and natural resources.
Hasse may joke that there are only two seasons in the Yooper, “nine months of winter followed by three months of bad sledding,” but to him it is home, a place where he can put down his own roots.
“Whether it’s been at Purdue or in the Peace Corps, I’ve always been someplace where, eventually, I’ve known I would be leaving. I’ve been lucky to travel so much while I have been young and healthy (two dozen countries, by his count), but I’ve been called to serve the people of my diocese.”
For Hasse, it’s a place where he will be able to hear even the quietest of whispers, loud and clear.
Contact Hasse at firstname.lastname@example.org