A really late vocation: widower enters seminary at 67

All I can say is: Wow.  God bless him.

Read all about it:

One day after his 67th birthday in January, Jack Sidler traded in his 2,200-square-foot house for a 10-foot-by-11-foot dormitory room in Hales Corners, Wis.

He traded in his retirement lifestyle — which included spending time with his three grown children and five grandchildren, volunteering at St. Edward Mercy Hospice twice a week, studying at the Little Rock Theology Institute, participating in parish life at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling, and enjoying leisure activities — for life as a seminarian at Sacred Heart School of Theology.

Sidler hopes to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Little Rock in the summer of 2015 and begin his priestly ministry at age 71. If longevity runs in his family — his father died recently at the age of 95 years, six months and one day — he will minister in Arkansas for many years.

Sidler retired from employment as director of technical services for Pepper Source in Van Buren in early 2008. He hoped to enjoy many years of retirement with his wife of 46 years, Dee, but instead found himself caring for her in the final months of her life as they battled her lung cancer together. Throughout this ordeal, ending with her death on Nov. 15, 2008, “our faith grew by leaps and bounds as God poured his grace on us to weather this storm,” Sidler said.

Read more about his amazing journey.  And keep him in your prayers!


  1. Pat McNamara says:

    In the Brooklyn Diocese, Dr. Francis Kilcoyne was ordained at age 78 in 1980. A widower, he had been President of Brooklyn College. He lived in his home and served at his local parish in Brooklyn. His son had been ordained a priest earlier, making them one of the few father-son priest combinations in the country. I believe Fr. Kilcoyne, Sr., died in 1985.

  2. My deacon mentor is in his sixties and considering the same call. I think these men have a lot to offer and certainly need our prayers.

  3. deacon marv robertson says:

    This story is truly inspiring. My wife and I prayed for Jack, our young nephew entering seminary in the Fall, and all seminarians in our Liturgy of the Hours this morning. We also prayed for the continuing reforms of our seminaries. A sad headline was printed in the National Catholic Reporter years ago: “Seminary in the eye of a new sex storm—Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners, Wisconsin.” (NCR April 9, 1993). Let us pray that with current reforms, today’s seminaries be true centers of learning and holiness.

  4. Wow! Around here they won’t even let you enter the deconate after age 55.

  5. Thanks be to God! I am so very happy for Mr. Sidler, as many older men have entered the seminary to begin training for the priesthood. These older men have a lot to give, but older women also have a lot to give. It is frankly impossible to enter a convent or monastery for an older woman due to age. Most will not even allow women past 35 years of age to enter. One can only shake one’s head and wonder why the discrepancy.

  6. Women are a different in many many ways from men. That being said each order has the right to decide what is right for their order and way of life. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross entered the Carmelite Order Discalced at 42 yrs after a profound conversion. Each case is decided on it’s own merits. I also know a woman who entered the Carmelites at 51 – in fact she celebrated her 52 a month later. Late vocations to the priesthood are just that as are those of women to religious life – vocations. Each individual is judged on the merits of their calling by the Lord and not simply by their own desire to serve. That’s the true meaning of vocation. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, I chose you.”

  7. @Sheila-

    Actually, you’d be surprised at how many orders now will consider later vocations. Recently, while goofing around on the computer, we came across http://www.vocationsplacement.org and my wife took the test, and now she gets an average of 1 inquiry/brochure a week from orders willing take women in their 40′s and 50′s.

    I’ve heard Sister Rosalyn on Catholic Radio saying she would take women 18-80.

    So have faith, be patient and diligent, and try the vocation test, and see how it goes.

  8. Deacon Norb says:

    Post #4 Carl:

    That’s a local rule — not a universal one.

    –In the late 1970′s, a man who was 62 was ordained to the diaconate in a local diocese. He is still alive and ministering at 95.

    –Some fifteen years later — in the early 1990′s — that same diocese did not approve of another man’s application — citing he was too old at 65. He is now approaching 80, is still an active layperson in the pews.

    I’m far more concerned about diocesan ordinaries who push up the minimum age. Canonically, it is 35. In some dioceses, that only works if the applicant has no young children. If they do have a young family, their applications are postponed until the youngest gets to high-school.

  9. Its great to see the support – not the norm (not even close). In 1974 I was 1 1/2 years away from deaconate and asked to leave the seminary because of my academics the day we were leaving for Christmas vacation. I was told I was not to come back. My spiritual advisor and academic advisors gave no assistence during that time because they was afraid to help (as I remeber it). (mind you I was a company man — high school, college and the major seminary).I was totally lost with not sure what do do. No assistance in the transistion to the real worlld either. Fast forward to 2009. I was master of ceremonies in my home parish in a different part of the United States from where I was in the seminary and the vocation director for the archhdiocese I am now in came for Holy Week services (he is a friend of the pastor). I made arrangements to see him. In the interview, age was a factor as to following up as well as where the studies would take place, etc. spiritual direction for descernment and the like. No direction as to what I could do to return to studies. No books recommendations, no followwup visits.With some converstaion and prayer I started to talk to my pastor about the possibility of deaconate. Well, the age to apply for deaconate in this archdiocese is 60. Well, without my pastors support and recommendation, I cant make a move. That support didnt come because of a disagreement that came up. I heard though a friend that the pastor felt that because of that I woud not be suited for the ministry. I have been lost in discernment in my life, trying to answer that call that I hear from the Lord to be in His service. The Lord has plans for me, but what. With His grace I will one day hear “well done reliable and faithful servant. Come and join in your Father’s joy” and then it may all make sense.

  10. pagansister says:

    One way to make sure you will be taken care of in your older age—join a religious order.

  11. Johannes B. Torwoe says:

    I am a religious belonging to the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.
    I am in my sixty,s. As at now, l am the Nursing Director and the Religious Superior of the community and the extra ordinary administrator of the Holy Eucharist.
    Now, my Superior Provincial asked me to kook for a late vocation Seminary where l could be trained as a priest.
    Could you please assist me to get one in order to apply to?

  12. I am from India. i am 55 years old . Help me to give details how to take a late priestly vocation.

  13. good information

  14. I am older and for many years people have told me I should be a priest. I always thought it to be an option but didn’t feel the urgency of a call. I’m a rugged sort, a poet, scuba instructor, and fire breathing Catholic who has read much. I am repelled by the sexual stuff people have recourse to these days. I feel a strong call to be a priest now but when I write to seminaries the only factor they seem to consider important is is age. Forget it if your over 40 Age. what a laugh, I could out swim the lot of them and in a storm at sea in the night. But that is the way of the world. Vanity built on vanity. One foolish man stuck on this ship of fools.

  15. I, Paul, hailing from India, born 03 Jan 1960 (Age: 53) wish to join the international late vocation priesthood seminary.
    You are kindly requested to send me the details with the list of contact addresses of the same.

  16. Bonface Muuo Ndeleva says:

    Am 39 yrs old ,was in a religious congregation for brotherhood since 1996 to 2006 but left to go and pursue higher education am now through with studies, worked for two years and want to become a priest but in kenya we don’t have seminaries for late vocations can you assist me please to find one. currently am a tutor of a college. God bless you.

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