NOVI — On Oct. 7, the Archdiocese of Detroit gained another new priest, as Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron ordained Fr. James Houbeck at Holy Family Parish in Novi.
Fr. Houbeck, who studied at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, joins five others who were ordained in June as a member of the seminary’s Class of 2017. The Michigan Catholic reached out to Fr. Houbeck and asked him to share his thoughts on joining the order of the priesthood.
What were you doing before you entered the seminary?
I was studying to become a reading specialist; I was one year away from earning a bachelor’s in elementary education when I felt called to discern the priesthood. I also worked at American House East I (Roseville) as a dining room attendant from 2005-09. It was a very good work environment and I have been able to stay in touch with a few people since I entered seminary!
How did you discover your priestly vocation?
When I was 21, I came to realize that becoming a reading specialist did not seem like what I wanted to do; I desired more. As I began to weigh different options I felt God calling me, saying, “What about the priesthood?” I had been thinking about priesthood for years, but, I kept avoiding it. Finally, I asked God, “What about priesthood? Is this what You desire for me? Can I can do this with Your grace?” After spending one year away from school and spending great time in prayer, I felt that God was in fact calling me, and so I applied and was accepted to seminary.
One major influence for me was Msgr. Ferdinand DeCneudt: he served as pastor of my original home parish (Our Lady Queen of All Saints) from 1964-82, then he assisted at weekend Masses until he died in 2010. He was always humble and joyful in everything he did; this impacted me greatly. In his late ‘90s he was interviewed and declared, “I am a happy priest,” even after so many years of pain and health issues. Msgr. DeCneudt helped form me, and I hope I can be as joyful as he was!
What pastoral learning experiences made the greatest impact on you?
Praying with people on their deathbed has been incredible. Not only have I had a chance to pray for the person dying and to encourage him/her, I also have been able to minister to family members present. It is very humbling and very powerful.
What excites you the most about becoming a priest?
I am excited to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and to reconcile people to God and the Church in the confessional. I also hope to assist and be present to the various groups in our parishes (youth group, RCIA, etc.).
What is the greatest challenge facing the Church today? What is the solution to that challenge?
It is tempting for people to stop caring about God and to try to fill their lives with diversions to replace Him. But, nothing can truly replace God. I think it is helpful for Catholics to reflect on the words a bishop speaks at an ordination: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” This applies directly to me as an ordained minister, but, Catholics can participate in this, too!
What saint has been your greatest inspiration and why?
St. Mary Magdalene — I have always felt drawn to her example and life of conversion. She is a woman who had a true conversion to Jesus and spent her life constantly seeking to repent of her sins and stay united to Him. I am inspired by her and I ask her to intercede for me, that I too may seek to stay united to Jesus.
How do you hope to answer the call of the New Evangelization in your priestly ministry?
I hope to help people see that our faith is not a mundane set of rules; it is a dynamic journey Christians undergo as we seek to return home to our Heavenly Father. I hope to contribute by my preaching and also by going out to meet people where they are, always inviting them to go deeper in relationship with the Holy Trinity.
Fr. James Michael Houbeck
Parents: Barbara Houbeck (née Kupper) and Joseph Houbeck
Education: Fraser High School (2005), Macomb Community College and Oakland University, Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, 2012; Masters of Divinity, Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology, 2017)
Home parish: St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Roseville
Masses of thanksgiving: 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, at Holy Family Parish, Novi; 11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, at St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish, Roseville; and 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, at St. Damien of Molokai Parish, Pontiac
First assignment after ordination: Holy Family Parish, Novi
Hobbies: Reading, listening to music, watching sports, spending time with family and friends.