Soon-to-Be Priest: ‘I Can’t Wait to Get Started’
Deacon Zane Langenbrunner, who will be ordained to the priesthood June 3, says he was drawn to his vocation by ‘a love for Jesus in the Eucharist.’
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, will ordain Deacon Zane Langenbrunner, 29, and six other men to the priesthood on June 3.
Langenbrunner was engaged to be married in his senior year in college and was planning on a career in speech pathology but discerned the seminary instead and has spent the last four years studying for the priesthood in Rome.
In a late-May interview as he prepared to return to Indiana, Deacon Langenbrunner told the Register, “I am immensely grateful to God for his goodness, mercy and faithfulness. He invited me in love to respond to his call to be a priest, then gave me all the grace and support that I needed to respond with a loving ‘Yes’ of my own.”
While ordination is a milestone, it is still a beginning, he believes, as “I have so much to learn, so many ways to grow, so much of myself that remains to be conformed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I can’t wait to get started.”
He is “ready to lay down my life for Christ in a definitive way,” he continued, and quoting St. Paul, he declared, “It is no longer I who live; Christ is living in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Langenbrunner was born and raised in Mishawaka, Indiana, a “wonderful community” that borders South Bend. His father is a retired factory worker and his mother is a former home daycare operator; he has one brother.
His was a practicing Catholic family, he said, with his parents positively influenced by “Christ Renews His Parish” retreats and he and his brother by their involvement in the youth group “Antioch.”
He said, “These things led us all to a more intentional practice of our Catholic faith.”
Like many others in the ordination Class of 2023, he was drawn to the priesthood, he said, by “a love for Jesus in the Eucharist.”
He recalled an incident that happened in church at age 5: “Mom was trying to keep me from squirming in the pew during the Eucharistic Prayer, and I remember her pointing toward the altar and whispering to me, ‘Look, Zane. Every Sunday when we come to Mass, a miracle happens on that altar.’ Those words have stayed with me ever since.”
When he was a little older, Langenbrunner began serving at the altar.
His father, Michael, recalled, “Zane loved the Mass and had a great interest in the hymns of the day. He had a toy keyboard and would come home and try to figure out how to play them. We were impressed, but never had any idea that it would lead to the priesthood.”
Langenbrunner spent much of his youth attending public school, and his extracurricular activities included sports, music, choir and theater. In college, he was active in a campus Newman Center and got to know some Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionaries. He met his fiancée amid his Catholic activities, but she broke off the engagement before graduation.
Seeking direction, he visited a convent of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration to make a daily Holy Hour.
“It was during these moments of prayer with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament — at a time of transition and uncertainty in my life — that I first heard his invitation to become a priest,” he explained.
“To make Jesus known and loved in the Eucharist — that is the thing that initially attracted my heart and has kept me going these past six years [in seminary].”
He said he was also influenced by his devout Catholic grandmother Jean, who was “always praying the Rosary and treating everyone with such attention, affection and love.”
Father Andrew Budzinski, diocesan vocation director, has found Langenbrunner to be a good fit for the priesthood. “Zane is a very joyful man and always has a smile and engages in a friendly and interested manner with all whom he comes into contact. He has a very infectious happiness, which will draw many people to Christ. His obvious love for people will be a powerful bridge for bringing people to Christ.”
He added that the soon-to-be priest has demonstrated a talent for foreign languages and with an advanced degree he is earning in sacred Scripture, “I expect he will be a very effective teacher and preacher of the Scriptures.”
Langenbrunner studied for two years at Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland, followed by four years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “I have had to confront a lot of my own shortcomings and fears during my time in the Eternal City,” he said, “and I am returning with a lively trust that God can and will provide for all that I need — no matter where he might send me.”
Music continues to be an important influence in his life. In the eighth grade, he participated in a life-changing confirmation retreat, for example, and explained, “Prayer with praise-and-worship music was a significant part of that. Singing to God and for God opened my heart to a radical encounter with his love.”
He played the drums and sang in musicals in high school and was part of a rock band while in seminary, performing contemporary music for special events. Most notably, at the recent Easter vigil Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica, he was tapped to sing the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation.
He recalled, “It is the single greatest honor of my life, and I am still so humbled that I got to do it. In many ways, it was a culminating experience for me: exercising ministry as a deacon, using the gift of music that God has blessed me with and cultivated these many years, to glorify him and lead his people in prayer and worship.”
He reminds young people considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life that “to do the will of God requires love and trust. I was not ready to respond to his call to priesthood until I had developed trust that, no matter what happens, no matter how much my plans fall apart, the Lord would still be with me. Only when I could honestly offer him my entire future did I finally recognize the vocation to the priesthood that he had laid on my heart.”
He added, “The best place to grow in love and trust is in prayer, especially prayer before the Eucharist. So start making a daily Holy Hour, and learn how to love and trust the Lord Jesus, who is present there before you.”
PRAY FOR THE NEW PRIEST
Watch and pray during Deacon Langenbrunner’s ordination to the priesthood on Saturday, June 3, 11am Eastern time via livestream on the diocese’s homepage (DioceseFWSB.org).