With more free time on his hands than he knew what to do with, Hilgenbrinck set a goal of reading the entire Bible. He read books on Catholicism, particularly those by Scott Hahn and Karl Keating that his parents gave him. He also prayed regularly.
"It started out a lot with me doing all the talking and me trying to say everything that I needed to get out," he said. "But it was in the silent times of prayer, whenever I shut up, it was like, 'Okay, now feel this.' . . . This idea of the priesthood kept permeating my heart. It was just there all the time."
The way he describes it, Hilgenbrinck's call to the priesthood came gradually. It is not like he woke up one day and God told him to become a priest.
"No miracles happened here," he said. "It was just I felt that way, and it progressively got stronger every single day for two years."
At first he resisted. He did not want to be a priest. All he could think of were the negatives. To begin with, he'd have to give up soccer. But that wasn't even the biggest obstacle for him.
"I can't be married," he said. "I can't have kids, and that was scary because I'd always envisioned myself as a married man."
Besides, he loved playing soccer. He was doing well with his team in Chile, Nublense. He figured he could just wait until his career was over before he had to make a decision. Then he read Hahn's book, "Rome Sweet Home" and came across the line, "delayed obedience is disobedience."
This article is going to be on the kitchen table when my youngest gets home from school. Not every young man is called to the priesthood. However, every young man and woman is called by God to a vocation. Chase Hilgenbrinck offers the perfect example of being open to that call. He prayed. He listened. He responded.
May God bless Chase on his journey to the priesthood. Oh, and perhaps he will find time to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The North American Martyrs soccer team could use his talents in the next Clericus Cup.