BY: DOMINIQUE JOHNSON
“My first experiences in the faith, my first experiences in the sacraments were all here and that had a huge impact,” Fr. Michael Liliedahl remembered when looking back on how growing up in Juneau helped spark his vocation journey.
Fr. Michael Liliedahl was ordained a priest June 10 in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and a week later he celebrated Mass twice in his hometown, at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the National Shrine of St. Therese.
When growing up in Juneau Fr. Liliedahl attended Auke Bay Elementary School, Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, Juneau-Douglas High School and was a parishioner at the Cathedral, even though his family lived “out the road.”
Fr. Michael shared how his experiences as a parishioner at the Cathedral helped him find his calling. One of the first memories he recalled was during a Holy Thursday Mass celebrated by then Bishop, Michael Warfel. At the Mass Fr. Liliedahl was selected to represent the High School youth group for the washing of the feet.
“I remember he came down and washed my feet, and then he motioned me down and whispered in my ear ‘remember Jesus washed the feet of the first priests.’”
It was that exchange during Holy Week that set things in motion for Fr. Liliedahl to explore the priesthood.
Another major influence came from the Cathedral’s rector, who at that time was Fr. Peter Gorges.
“He was the priest for my first Communion, he heard my first Confession, and taught me how to altar serve,” Fr. Liliedahl said.
He continued saying that Fr. Gorges may not know it, but he was an inspiration for Fr. Liliedahl “His day in and day out faithfulness…he lived the life of a priest day in and day out and that was impressive.”
Fr. Liliedahl said that he may not have realized it when he was younger, but now when he looks back at the example Fr. Gorges set, “it is something to aspire to as I begin my priesthood.”
Though he went to seminary right out of high school, he admitted that at 18 years old he wasn’t ready and left so he could have a “normal” college experience.
After graduating from Gonzaga University, Fr. Liliedahl spent two years in Massachusetts and two years in Washington D.C., before moving to San Francisco. During this period in his life he felt like he was “running away from something” but when he began to think about the priesthood “I got a sense of peace.”
This led him to meet with his parish priest in San Francisco. The priest gave Fr. Liliedahl a prayer to meditate on “In Your will oh God, is my peace” and it was in this prayer that he decided to pursue his vocation.
Fr. Liliedahl described his life when not pursuing the priesthood as a bike without a chain, “It didn’t matter how hard I would peddle, it just didn’t seem to be driving or making any progress and it was only when I did that (pursue the priesthood) it seemed the chain came on.”
He admits that not everything came together at once, but after entering seminary again he felt like his work and life had meaning.
Eight days after his ordination, Fr. Liliedahl said that he still hasn’t processed the experience, but shared that it was “Incredible to be welcomed into the fraternity of the priesthood there (in San Francisco) and to see everyone’s excitement” the day of his ordination. He said he was grateful for his parents’ and siblings’ support through the whole process and their encouragement to pursue the call.
Fr. Liliedahl is assigned to St. Cecelia’s parish in San Francisco and says what he looks forward to the most is “being there with the people” and to “bring Christ to them…in my presence and sacramentally.”
For those who feel like they are being called to become a priest, Fr. Liliedahl says, “Give it a shot, you never know where God is calling you…God is worth the chance.” He added that while he was in seminary he had friends who left, but their faith and knowledge of the faith is stronger now because of the experience. He said, “Even if you don’t go all the way through its not a wasted time, it’s a good preparation for life.”