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Police officer candidate answers call to priesthood
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Photo: Todd Welvaert/twelvaert@qconline.com
Father Anthony Co of Saint Patrick Parish in Taylor Ridge, poses for a photo, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2104.
ANDALUSIA -- A decision he made in 10 minutes changed his life forever, and the Rev. Anthony Co said it's a decision he's glad he made.

While growing up, he wanted to be on a police department SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, and he went to college to pursue that goal. But during his senior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he decided to take a different path.

He decided to go into the priesthood.

"I realized what I really wanted in life," Rev. Co said. "I wanted adventure, I wanted to sacrifice my life for the people, and I wanted to walk with people on their journey .... I wanted these things. They were stuck in my heart."

Rev. Co said he fell away from his faith in high school and focused on police work, even working for a police department for two years while in college.

An interest in philosophy in college led him on a faith-based journey to where he is today.

"I studied every religion you can think of," Rev. Co said, adding that he began to feel frustrated when he felt no push toward any certain one. That's when he asked God for help.

Shortly after, a Catholic classmate invited him on a summer mission trip to Mexico, which he believes was his first sign from God.

"For the first time in my life I was surrounded by all these practicing Christians, practicing Catholics," Rev. Co said. "They weren't perfect by any means, but people were really trying. I didn't care that they had problems, that wasn't the issue. For me, I was just so moved by the fact that they were trying."

One night while praying in a church with his new friends from the trip, Rev. Co said he felt God's presence. He decided to take a serious look at Catholicism and started asking questions and surrounding himself with people and the culture involved in the faith. He also started to pray.

"Every day I said to God, 'I want to know what you want me to do with my life,'" Rev. Co said, adding that his plan at that point was to finish college with a philosophy major, get a law degree and then go into law enforcement.

That changed after he felt God's presence again one night while on a study date with a girl.

"I was studying my philosophy and all of a sudden God's presence came into the room again," Rev. Co said. "There was so much joy I wanted to jump on the table and proclaim his praises. I wanted to go on another date with this girl, so I didn't do that," he said with a laugh.

"But as I sat there, I heard God say to me, which had never happened to me in my life before, 'Son, consider the priesthood.' "

He realized that being a priest would satisfy what he wanted in life -- adventure, sacrificing for people and walking with them on their journey.

"From that point on, I had no doubt," Rev. Co said. "For the most part, it's been a lot of joy, peace and adventure."

After graduating with his bachelor's degree, he went into the seminary. He was ordained in 2005 and served in Monmouth and Champaign before moving to St. Patrick Parish in Andalusia.

"It gives me so much joy when I see the gold in people's hearts and see them filled with hope, joy and laughter when they meet Jesus," Rev. Co said.

Rev. Co said he realizes things are changing in the church. "The teaching doesn't change, but the focus changes," he said. Before, the focus was more on "how can I become more holy," but is now moving toward "how can we become more holy.

"More and more, Catholics are becoming aware of the need to share the faith with other people," he said, adding that it's something he wants his parish to focus on.

As for being a good priest that his people trust and follow, Rev. Co remains humble.

"It might seem to strange to talk this way, but in Christ, all we can do is succeed," he said. "We were born for victory. I'm not sure if others think I excel, but I don't believe we can fail when we are with Christ."







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