Fr. Zahn shares his vocation and experiences on the journey toward the priesthood

“There wasn’t really any crazy insight from God. It just felt right. It felt like the right thing to do.” Fr. John Zahn

Fr. Zahn shares his vocation and experiences on the journey toward the priesthood

Max Wirth, Reporter

50 or so odd minutes away from here, a somewhat rebellious young man was raised in Frankfort, Indiana. “Home of the hot dogs,” he said with a sarcastic chuckle.

“I was born in Lafayette and raised in Frankfort because my father was an engineer on the railroad there,” he continued. These two cities are just the beginning of Father John Zahn’s untraditional route to the priesthood and Cathedral.

Catholic foundation

The Catholic foundation, although not entirely strong, was there. My family celebrated the faith and was always Catholic,” he said, “ and it was just something we did. We weren’t there every weekend or anything like that. It wasn’t super serious.”

It turns out the love he has now wasn’t quite there as a young child, either. “I had four years of Catholic grade school, too, which I hated.”

Fr. Zahn’s schooling journey

Schooling was never nice to Fr. Zahn. “I attended Indiana University for a year and a half before flunking out,” he said. “Man, I loved IU. But it just wasn’t for me.”

Then his journey took him even further south in Indiana, near Evansville.

“I decided to go to Oakland City College until my graduation, but I had to leave there too.”

He planned on teaching high school history and social studies. He hit all the requirements except student teaching. And he was ready for that, too. “The principal said I had a job as soon as I was done student teaching,” he said.

Seminary possibilities

All the while working for a teaching job, Saint Meinrad Archabbey, a seminary, was not too far away. “I kept looking at it. I had no idea what a seminary was like,” he said.

“I thought it would be a neat experience to tell my grandkids I spent a year in the seminary.”

Little did Fr. Zahn know he would go to that seminary and grow attached, leading to his field of work today.

“I came home and talked to the local pastor. I thought he would tell me to get my teacher license to go to school. Instead, he called the bishop and he made an appointment to speak with me. Turns out, he made an appointment for me to go to Saint Meinrad,” he said.

Fr. Zahn was headed to the seminary to finish his college and enter into the priesthood. “I thought, ‘crap, this isn’t what I had in mind at all.’ But the funny thing is my parents were more shocked than I was.”

“The people at Saint Meinrad’s said I could get my teaching license at the monastery. But to graduate, you needed four years of Latin, two years of Greek and two years of philosophy,” he said. Fr. Zahn was headed back to college, once again.

This time, it felt right. “I liked that atmosphere a lot. I got my undergraduate degree,” he said.

Fr. Zahn was comfortable at a school for the first time in his life. So comfortable, in fact, that he would undergo his true journey to the priesthood.

Path to priesthood

Not all priests have a profound revelation. There isn’t always a shining light calling you to become a priest.

“There wasn’t really any crazy insight from God. It just felt right. It felt like the right thing to do,” he said. He was ordained in 1972.

The hike across the state of Indiana had just begun. Fr. Zahn had opened the doors to many new places and opportunities with his holy career choice.

New places and opportunities

“I was a deacon at Saint Patrick’s in Kokomo for six years. Then I became the associate pastor at Saint Ambrose in Anderson for one year three months and three days, not that I was counting or anything,” he said.

After two stops, he turned to his hometown of Lafayette. “I was at Blessed Sacrament parish for six years,” he said.

“Then I was pastor at Saint Mary’s in Union City for eleven years. After a good run, I went to Saint Joseph’s in Rochester for another six years,” he said. He ended his out of town preaching at All Saints parish in Logansport.

More recently, he spent nine years at Our Lady of Grace in Noblesville. Now, he’s living and helping out at Holy Spirit Geist on the weekends.

Chaplain at the school

“But it seems like I’ve always been involved with high school, through various retreats and programs. Being chaplain here at Cathedral has been a real change in schedule and focus but it’s been very, very enjoyable,” he said.

Fr. Zahn has been all over the map. He’s a well-traveled man. Having him as the priest at this school is extremely lucky. Take time to appreciate Fr. Zahn and everything he does for the school.