St. Paul youth director to enter seminary

Published 3:59 am Sunday, April 16, 2023

At the end of May, Wilson Locke will leave his position as parish youth director at St. Paul Catholic Church to begin a new life.

Locke, a Starkville native who has been parish youth director since July 2020, has been formally accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Jackson and will begin studying for the Catholic priesthood in the fall.

He will return to Starkville to spend the summer with his family. In August he will move to Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, where he will live on the campus.

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“The only example that I can really think of, really, is it’s like a boarding school,” Locke said. “You live at the seminary full time and everything that you do revolves around being formed and discerning whether or not the priesthood is what God is calling you to do.”

Locke, who was a member of the Church of Christ before converting to Catholicism, said his experience in the denomination helped influence his decision to become a priest.

“I was technically considered an ordained minister in the Church of Christ and then I became a Catholic in 2020,” he said. “Because of that, I’ve been in ministry for seven years — the priesthood just seemed to be the natural next step. It’s been a long multi-year journey of discerning whether or not I wanted to go to seminary.

“It just felt it was time that if I didn’t take this step, whether or not I actually ever became a priest, I would always wonder what if?” he continued. “I’ve known since I became a Christian that all I want to do is full-time ministry,” he said. If the priesthood is not my calling, I plan on continuing to work in a church in some fashion, whether it’s youth ministry, campus ministry or missionary. This is all that matters to me.”

Locke said Notre Dame Seminary is one of two seminaries used by the diocese to train priests. The other is St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College in St. Benedict, La., near Covington. He said he visited both seminaries and believed Notre Dame was a better fit for him because the students there were closer to his age.

“A lot of the guys at the abbey seminary in Covington are younger,” he said. “So coming out of youth ministry, I felt that going to the abbey seminary might feel like youth ministry. I might not be able to discern clearly because I’m still in kind of a youth ministry mindset.

“But I was excited about the idea of going to this community where there were guys my age that are all serious about their faith and just letting that environment transform me.”

Looking at his time at St. Paul, Locke said he will miss the people.

“The parishioners, our youth, our students, my little friend group that thankfully I’ve gotten to make here — our young adults group — and I am definitely going to miss the stained glass windows,” he said.

The windows, Locke said, are unique.

“They’re imposing but in a good way. They kind of inspire a sense of awe,” he said. “It helps, you know, when you’re in worship or you come to the church to do some task or some work and you look up and there’s Christ and the Blessed Mother and eight saints looking back at you and reminding you that there’s a long way left to go on this journey — journey of faith.”

He said parishioners have been very supportive of his decision.

“I’ve received tons of support, which has been very encouraging,” he said.

Looking ahead to his new experience, Locke said he’s looking forward to being in a community of people who are serious about their faith and being transformed into a better man.

“Because the program is designed to help you grow spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, in all aspects of human life, they want you to flourish,” he said.

He recalled something his vocation director at Notre Dame told him.

“He said that going to seminary will either help you grow into a man that would become a good priest or grow into a man that would become a good husband and father,” Locke said.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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