When a child is baptized, the priest blesses the parents, saying: “You will be the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith. May you also be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what you say and do.”
Dan and Beth Ohlhaut took these words to heart as they baptized and raised their nine children in the Catholic faith. This weekend, Beth celebrates more than Mother’s Day; she celebrates the graduation of her son Harry from St. Joseph College Seminary. “Harry is the fruit of an imperfect but loving and faithful marriage,” said Beth. “His vocation was planted and has grown in the happy soil of a large family. I believe these have been key in forming Harry into a holy man, and perhaps if God wills it, a holy priest.”
Beth is happy for Harry and proud of his accomplishments at St. Joseph College Seminary. And she’s not the least bit surprised that this important milestone coincides with Mother’s Day. “I homeschooled Harry and his eight younger siblings, so my identity as a mother and my children’s education have always been intertwined,” said Beth. “It’s also significant that he graduates on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. He is consecrated to her, and I believe that it’s through Our Lady’s intercession that Harry’s heart has been open to hearing her Son’s call.
Harry attended The Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, for his first year of college seminary. Beth says that during that first year she saw changes in Harry that would occur in any young man leaving home for the first time as he grew in independence and responsibility.
“The greatest moment of joy for me in the past few years was when Harry called me from Ohio to say that Bishop Jugis asked him to come back to Charlotte to finish his college seminary years at the new St. Joseph College Seminary,” said Beth. “Having him closer has been wonderful, not only for my husband and I, but also for his younger siblings who miss him so much when he’s gone. It’s also been a blessing for our family to become friends with the other seminarians as they are each, in their own way, a role model for my younger sons.”
Beth says that being the only young man with any seminary experience, Harry was looked up to and given more authority among the seminarians. In the past 2 years, she’s seen tremendous growth in his confidence and leadership. “I’ve also noticed a shift in his discernment,” she said. “When he first went to seminary, people would often ask him, ‘How long have you known you wanted to be a priest?’ He’d tell them he wasn’t actually sure if he did want that, but that’s what seminary is for, to figure that out. Now after three years of discernment, he does desire it, but his question today is more of, ‘Does God desire it for me?’”
Beth says she is humbled that Harry will be continuing his formation for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s in the fall and that God has given this gift to her son. “The thought of my son baptizing babies and opening up Heaven for souls, reconciling them with God through Confession, witnessing the union of a man and woman in holy matrimony, assisting souls in the last hours on this earth and above all, giving us – giving me – the Body and Blood of my Savior? There are no words to describe the depth of joy and gratitude in my heart that my son may be called to this great work.”
Beth says Harry talked about the possibility of the priesthood often during his childhood. She made it a priority for her children to attend daily Mass, even though it was never easy or convenient getting that many children to Mass each day. Harry and his brothers were usually the only young boys at Mass, so they served every time. “One day when Harry was about 10 years old and had just served Holy Mass, he talked all the way home about how lucky he was that he could be so close to the miracle that took place on the altar,” Beth recalls. “He was overflowing with awe about the miracle of turning bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus right in front of his eyes! I believe daily Mass helped prepare a fertile ground for Harry to receive the seed of a calling to the Sacred Priesthood. The sacrifices entailed with taking my children to daily Mass are ones I will never regret.”
Beth says she once heard that it takes 100 years of prayer to produce a priestly vocation and believes many people must have been praying for her family for a very long time. Her brother, Father Christopher Bond, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Charlotte last summer, and Beth’s nephew, Peter Rusciolelli, also attends St. Joseph College Seminary. “Harry has very strong, devout Catholic roots on both sides of his family tree. My husband and I regularly pray for our children’s vocations, and as a family we always end our rosary with prayers for holy priests.”
It’s fitting that the baptismal rite concludes with the words, “God the Father, through his Son, the Virgin Mary’s child, has brought joy to all Christian mothers, as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their children. May he bless the mother of this child. She now thanks God for the gift of her child. May she be one with him in thanking him forever in Heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We thank Beth for giving her son the freedom and support to respond to his priestly vocation so that the Diocese of Charlotte may be a vibrant spiritual family now and in the years ahead.
 Rite of Baptism for Children, (Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing, 2001); p. 91.