New director of priestly vocations will bring artistic, joyful perspective to role

Fr. Craig Giera, 42, pastor of St. Ephrem Parish in Sterling Heights, took over as the Archdiocese of Detroit's new deputy director of priestly vocations on Jan. 6. Come July, he will succeed Fr. Joe Horn as director of priestly vocations, a role he said he'll cherish as he helps young men discern God's call to their own vocation. (Photos by Melissa Moon | Detroit Catholic)

Fr. Craig Giera, pastor of St. Ephrem, will succeed Fr. Joe Horn on July 1, looks forward to helping young men discern God's will

STERLING HEIGHTS — As St. Thomas Aquinas asserted, “God is beauty itself.” 

Fr. Craig Giera sees beauty everywhere, and his perspective as a lover of beauty and a trained and skilled artist will allow him to uniquely fill the role of director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, come April 1.

When Fr. Giera spoke with Detroit Catholic about helping young men find their vocations, he frequently used the words “art,” “joy” and “beauty” when describing the priesthood.

“For me — I am an artist — it was the art that really brought me closer to God,” Fr. Giera said. “When I was painting and doing my artwork it was a time of silence where I really began to hear the Lord speak to me and talk to me about becoming a priest. It was in the silent solitude of the art studio that really brought me closer to God.”

Fr. Giera’s life as an intersection between art and faith doesn’t stop there, however. A self-described music snob, he enjoys melancholy music (his favorite band is Radiohead), which provides an opportunity for reflection.

“Everybody is attracted to beauty, and to show the beauty of God can be a great enticement for men to say yes to their vocation,” Fr. Giera said.

Fr. Giera, 42, hopes that now, approximately 20 years after answering the call to his own vocation, he can guide young men to hear the call to their own vocations, and he believes that opening their eyes and hearts to beauty might be the key.

“Everybody is attracted to beauty, and to show the beauty of God can be a great enticement for men to say yes to their vocation,” Fr. Giera said.

His own vocation story started when he was a young boy between the ages of 10-12. The seeds were planted while sitting in Mass as a child, and his boredom would lead him to imagine ways to make the homily more interesting. However, it wasn’t until coming into his faith in his twenties that he began to truly entertain the possibility of priesthood.

During a mission trip to Ukraine with Polish priests from the Society of Christ Fathers, his eyes were opened when he saw young priests on fire for the Lord while tending to multiple parishes across hundreds of miles.

“I got to see that even in the midst of a challenge that there can be joy and happiness,” Fr. Giera said.

Fr. Giera also attributes the prayer and intercession of his mothers — his natural mother, his adopted mothers in prayer and, of course, the Blessed Mother — as playing a significant role in his vocation journey.

Fr. Giera will be taking over as director of priestly vocations from Fr. Joe Horn, who will become pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak on Feb. 3. The Shrine’s current pastor, Bishop-elect Robert McClory, will be ordained bishop of Gary, Ind., on Feb. 11.

Fr. Craig Giera laughs outside at his parish, St. Ephrem in Sterling Heights. A lover of music and art, Fr. Giera said young men don't need to fear losing themselves when they become a priest — just as he hasn't forgotten how to laugh and have a good time, he said.

Starting Jan. 6, Fr. Giera began his role as deputy director of priestly vocations while continuing his responsibilities as pastor of St. Ephrem Parish in Sterling Heights. That role will allow him to learn the ropes until he becomes full-time director of priestly vocations April 1.

Fr. Giera received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Wayne State University before attending seminary. While at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy and Master of Divinity before being ordained in 2010. Later, he earned a Pontifical Degree of Sacred Theology and a doctorate in ministry from Duke University.

In his new role, Fr. Giera plans to confer with former vocational directors and learn from their wisdom, as well as seek the advice of his bishops.

Despite the time that has passed since his own call to the priesthood, Fr. Giera believes his experience will allow him to walk alongside young men as they discern their own vocation. He said he can offer perspective and advice on the highlights and lowlights, how to protect against some of the pitfalls as well as what men can do to better listen to the Lord.

“It’s an art of accompaniment, of walking with them,” Fr. Giera said.

Finding one’s vocation will not happen immediately, he explained. It’s a long process — something that can be foreign in a culture of immediate gratification, he said. “Anything that is worth it is a long process. It changes us, and that’s not a bad thing,” Fr. Giera said. “That can be a very good thing.”

As an artist, Fr. Giera often refers to art when talking about faith. Although not the exact painting that Fr. Geira referenced, this 1630 painting of "St. Anthony Preaching to the Fishes,“ attributed to Francisco de Herrera the Elder, is a representation of how when priests preach truth, all of creation listens. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fr. Giera believes good preaching is key to bringing men to the priesthood, especially as so many men haven’t yet entered the Church or discovered their faith, he said.

“But God hasn’t stopped calling guys. Rather, they just need to be open and listen,” he said.

Finding the time to do that is a significant challenge for today’s young people, Fr. Giera said, and in turn, one of his challenges will be helping young men turn off the distractions.

Fr. Giera said a painting of St. Anthony preaching to the fishes at the Toledo Art Museum is a visual representation of the impact of good, truthful preaching, made applicable to the lives of whoever is listening, he said. “When we preach the truth, all of creation listens,” he said.

Further, Fr. Giera wants to dispel the notion that going into the priesthood means giving up who one is. Initially worried that his art would be put aside, that perception was quickly altered.

“God takes these gifts we have and uses it for his glory if we give it to him,” Fr. Giera said. “When I joined the seminary, the first semester they found an extra room for me to create artwork in, and it’s always been a staple within my life.”

A previous version of this story reported Fr. Giera will start his new role July 1. Since then, that timeline has been adjusted. Fr. Giera will take over his new responsibilities on April 1.