Some parishioners at St. Bernard of Clairvaux were doubly prophetic when it came to identifying a vocation in one of their own.
They told the now Fr. Christopher Gossen back in middle school that he would become a youth minister or priest. The Scottsdale native’s name has been next to both titles in parish bulletins following his June 1 ordination at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. Fr. Gossen entered seminary after serving for two years as a youth minister at St. Bernard.
The path to priesthood wasn’t as immediate as that though. St. Bernard parishioners saw the slightly younger Gossen in several ministries that kept the family involved in Mass each week.
“My parents brought us up going to Mass since we were babies and they instilled in us the faith that would guide us through life,” Fr. Gossen said. “They let my sister, Rachel, and I take roles in the Church when we were growing up, from altar serving to being in the choir. … I joined the choir when I was in eighth grade, and my sister in first grade, and we continued to sing until we graduated high school.”
His dad, Jerry Gossen, still sings for two parish choirs. Fr. Gossen listed piano, clarinet and saxophone among the instruments he can play, but admitted, “I haven’t played the last two very much so as not to annoy my brothers at the seminary.”
Fr. Braden Wagner, a house father and formator for two years at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, noted Fr. Gossen’s deep love for fraternity among seminarians and priests. He worked to draw others into that joy.
“His servant-heartedness and generosity were witnessed most in the ways he sought to create space for others to encounter one another. His attentiveness to others in the community profoundly helped relationships amongst seminarians develop, and he inspired the brothers to grow toward holiness together,” Fr. Wagner said.
The formator and Fr. Paul Sullivan, diocesan director of vocations, noted Fr. Gossen’s leadership and organizational strengths. Fr. Wagner said an especially rare gift is seeing leadership paired with flexibility and docility to others.
“He has a gift for foresight and vision, and he continually seeks to plan for how God might want to work so that his heart and the hearts of others are disposed and prepared to receive whatever grace God desires to give,” Fr. Wagner said.
Fr. Gossen said he is looking forward to getting to know the parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale and bringing the sacraments to them alongside helping form disciples across the diocese. The six summers he spent throughout seminary at as many Valley parishes helped him grow in the desire to serve them with a fatherly heart.
Fr. Gossen also has fond memories of life at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale from his earlier years. Msgr. Alan Malone was the first priest he really got to know.
“He always radiated joy. I looked forward to him giving me a high-five after Mass each week,” Fr. Gossen said.
A decade ago, he felt the Holy Spirit calling him to become part of the Church in a new way. That’s where the youth minister role came in as did a human relations position at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
The seed of priesthood re-emerged and was further fertilized by both attending and serving daily Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, meeting seminarians and attending a “Joy in Vocations” retreat.
That sense of joy remains. His dad noted his son’s enduring smile among his priestly qualities. He also identified Fr. Gossen’s extreme caring for people and overall disposition. “His time at the seminary also developed an aspect of serving people in all ways,” the older Gossen said.
Fr. Sullivan knows Fr. Gossen’s insight into the dynamics of the Diocesan Pastoral Center’s work for the lay faithful will help him be an even better servant. “We look forward to seeing the Lord guide him in the active parish community of Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” Fr. Sullivan said.
Fr. Wagner echoed that, anticipating the graces that await the new priest and “especially the graces the Lord desires to pour out upon the faithful of the diocese through him.”