Father Brian Simon has been serving Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gettysburg and St. Pius X Catholic Church in Onida since July.
The Hoven native says that after he graduated high school, he pursued a degree in Chemical Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. “I went to California, to San Francisco Bay, after I graduated,” said Fr. Simon. “I was a civilian employee of the Navy, and worked with a small engineering group to test explosive sections of missiles, mines and torpedoes.” By testing the hardware, electronics and chemicals, the team could determine the ordinance’s long- term service life, “how long they can stay in the fleet.”
It was while working in this capacity that Fr. Simon says he had a spiritual conversion. “I was discerning God’s will and felt called to priesthood.”
Fr. Simon says that it is in problem solving that priesthood and engineering are alike. “Engineering is not science. Engineers take sciences and apply them to real life situations. That was one of my favorite things to do as an engineer, figure things out, and I’m still doing that.”
He attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. “The Sioux Falls Diocese was sending everyone to seminary there, but I wanted to go there so I could take some elective courses at Pope John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, a special program on marriage and family.”
The priest just celebrated his 25th anniversary of priesthood. He has served parishes in Sioux Falls, Bowdle/Hosmer/Roscoe, Mobridge, Aberdeen, Clear Lake/Estelline/Gary, Eden/Grenville, and now Gettysburg/Onida. “I’ve kept pretty close to home, and all along Highway 212,” said Fr. Simon.
Among the things that have surprised him about his calling are witnessing conversion experiences. “People sometimes have a conversion experience on the spot,” said Fr. Simon. “It’s a special grace. Perhaps they’ve had a life changing experience, and during a prayer session or confession, I’ve witnessed their conversion. Or they come to the realization on their own, and come back to the church after many years for all kinds of reasons, and I can help them address their reasons. Everybody is unique, and all have their reasons.”
In that they both employ application, analysis and a mixture of things to figure things out, Fr. Simon says that serving as an engineer and as a priest share similarities. “Being an instrument of problem solving, to actually see God work through me and think ‘Wow! Something really happened there.’ Those God moments.”
And while he finds great joy in the problem solving aspects of priesthood, Fr. Simon also finds it challenging. “It’s tough to work with people. It’s not my thing. I’m technical, more of an introvert, so it’s difficult for me to work with people. I’ve been told I’m gifted at the one on one, but not at being a pastor of a whole parish and having to rudder the ship.” Still, Fr. Simon says he enjoys working with a whole range of people in all different stages of their faith.
Fr. Simon encourages anyone considering priesthood to “have a close personal relationship with God, with Jesus Christ. They must have a commitment that’s real so that when things get tough they’ll be able to stick with it. It’s not a job, it’s a calling, and they need to make sure they’ve been called.”
Another helpful bit of advice Fr. Simon offers is to “appreciate where you’re at. I like hunting and fishing; I actually love this location, and I love the area. I’ve lived on both coasts and still would rather be here. I had to go other places to appreciate where I came from.”