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Pathway to Priesthood For Fr. Dave Endres, his pathway to priesthood led straight through a St. Vincent de Paul Conference

Dave Endres was just a few days into his college career at Xavier University when he found himself in the middle of a controlled chaos known as Club Day on the Mall. Each of the student clubs were given a folding table that lined the sidewalks outside of the dorms and would try to recruit new students as they meandered about, like a college version of a street market.

As Endres walked past the St. Vincent de Paul Xavier Conference table, he stopped. He recognized the name from his home parish but really knew nothing about the organization.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“We tutor kids at a nearby elementary school,” they said.

“I can do that,” he said.

He joined, and by the end of the year his interest in the organization and propensity for leadership sparked the Conference president to simply hand him the reins. Over the next three years, the Conference went from 15 members to 75. It expanded the number of schools it tutored at, began serving Holy Communion to members of a nearby nursing home each week, and worked down at the Bank Street Outreach Center each weekend. It helped the Nativity Conference with home visits and held weekly prayer meetings.

“I don’t even know if Bank Street knew Xavier had a Conference at first,” Endres now says. “At some point before I got there I think it went rogue.”

He got the Conference back in line and expanded its good works.

“We took to heart Frederic Ozanam’s saying about no works of charity are foreign to the society,” he says. “We would always do things together, two by two, putting ourselves out there. We would do trick or treat for canned goods in North Avondale, or coat and clothing drives in Hyde Park. They weren’t organized. We would just go into the neighborhoods and go door to door and ask if they had anything. We were operating out of dorm rooms. We would bring them back and put them in one guy’s room and when we had free time a week or so later we would put them in a car and take them down to Bank Street. I remember once we were on our way back and we realized we accidentally gave away his coat as well.”

Today, sitting at a table in his office at The Athenaeum of Ohio and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Endres laughs at the memories. He may have made an impact on the Conference, he says, but the Conference actually had an even larger impact on him.

When he was 14 years old, Endres first began to feel the nudge toward becoming a priest—a scary but intriguing thought that followed him as he grew. He prayed for more men to be called to priesthood—not him, of course, but others. While at Xavier he started attending daily Mass and met with his spiritual director, Fr. Tom Kennealy, on a regular basis.

But the Conference work gave him a sense that maybe priesthood really was what he was intended to do. Specifically, it gave him a taste of what it was like to lead people spiritually.

“The first real tangible impact the Conference had on me was being able to see Christ in other people—tutoring kids, bringing communion to nursing homes. We saw people every week. We performed a great deal of service hours in high school, but going into these places, dealing with people one on one, really feeling connected and seeing the love of Christ in those relationships. That made an impact.”

Upon graduation, he chose to head to grad school instead, studying Church history at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He earned both his master’s and doctorate degrees there before finally deciding to finally stop ignoring the nudges and answer the call.

He enrolled in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati and was ordained in 2009 as a Diocesan priest. After a short time as a parish priest in Dayton and teaching high school in Middletown, he began at Mount St. Mary’s as professor of history, director of field education and member of the seminary formation team. He classroom skills earned him the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2015, and a year later was named the seminary’s dean, or chief academic officer. Since taking over, he’s had the same impact as he had with the Xavier Conference—growth. Enrollment grew from 78 students when he started to 95 last year—more students than it had dorm rooms for, leading to some creative use of space and, today, an expansion of the facility.

Sitting in a side table in his office just inside the door are a handful of books, stacked neatly in piles of three. They are his latest work, Soldiers of the Cross: The Heroism of Catholic Chaplains and Sisters in the American Civil War, which he co-edited, joining Many Tongues, One Faith: Franciscan Parish Life in America, and Remapping the History of Catholicism in the United States: Essays from the U.S. Catholic Historian.

Ever the historian and academic, he’s already working on his third, an official history of the Cincinnati Archdiocese, which is being released in conjunction with the Archdiocese’s bicentennial in 2021.

“It will be a little more pictorial than other histories of the Archdiocese,” he says. “People have written about all of the archbishops, so this will focus more on the laity, priests and sisters.”

That’s in addition to his serving as editor of the quarterly scholarly journal U.S. Catholic History, and columnist for both The Catholic Telegraph and Catholic Digest, and continues to say Mass at St. Thomas More in Withamsville and St. Rose in the East End.

St. Vincent de Paul continues to stay close to his heart, though. He just rotated off of a term on the Board of Directors—which was actually the second time he served on the Board. While he was at Xavier, still just 20 years old, he was also invited to be a Board member.

“We used to meet in a hotel ballroom in Queensgate,” he says. “I didn’t even have a car. Someone had to come pick me up.”

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