March 22 02:28 AM

An inspiration for new life vocation

Fr. Christopher Ankley of Imlay City to say first mass at Sacred Heart Church on Sunday

August 05, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Christopher Ankley credits a pair of earthly influences and God for his midlife decision to enter the seminary and become a Catholic priest.

Now 42, Ankley has enjoyed a successful career as a veterinarian and animal surgeon in Kalamazoo, where he will be assigned to a church following his ordination as a priest this weekend.

Fr. Christopher Ankley
A 1985 graduate of Imlay City High School, Christopher's mother, Carol, describes him as having been a regular child with behaviors and interests consistent with others his age.

"He was just a normal kid who used to fight with his two brothers," recalls Carol. "There was no early indication he would follow this calling.

"We lived on a farm and he did his chores," she says. "All things pointed to his becoming a veterinarian."

Despite his successful and financially rewarding career caring for animals, Christopher believes he was never fully satisfied with his profession.

In recent years, he says he had had grown spiritually and sought guidance from God to assist him in finding his true vocation.

He cites his fifth-grade catechism teacher, Sister Mary Bernadette; and Fr. John Dunn, former pastor of Sacred Heart Church; for having provided his earliest inspiration to walk the holy path.

"Sister Bernadette was just a good, holy nun who was always filled with joy," Christopher remembers. "She always told us that we should pray to find our vocations. That always stuck with me.

"Back in high school and in early college, I used to help out around Sacred Heart during the summer months," Christopher says. "In a conversation with Fr. Dunn, he recommended that I become a priest. That really wasn't something I wanted to hear at that time in my life. But I didn't forget it."

Still feeling unfulfilled, Christopher says he prayed harder than ever for God to reveal his plan for his life.

"It was always in the back of my mind," he says. "Every Sunday I used to go to mass and pray about it. I felt like He was talking to me and telling me what to do. I think God is always talking to us and guiding us if we're willing to listen."

Having finally heard the word, Christopher entered the seminary and began to devote his life to his religion and the Catholic church.

"I think when you make this kind of a commitment, you are handing your whole life over to the church," says Christopher. "It's like a marriage. You are supposed to give 100 percent of yourself to your spouse. That's what I'm doing. Giving of oneself is something we all have to work on."

While Christopher technically remains a "deacon" until his ordination on Saturday, Aug. 8 at St. Augustine's Catholic Church in Kalamazoo; he will say his very first mass at his former church in Imlay City.

Fr. Christopher Ankley will offer his first solemn "Mass of Thanksgiving" on Sunday, Aug. 9, beginning at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Imlay City. The public is invited to attend the mass.

"I'm very proud of him," says Carol Ankley. "He's a very giving, generous and good man. And he's now become very spiritual."

In addition to his mother Carol, Christopher is the son of the late Paul Ankley, a longtime member of the Imlay City Knights of Columbus.

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