Above photo by Foss Farrar: (l to r) Wit Goebel, general manager of Zeller Motors; Thomas Prater; his parents, David and Amy Prater; Father Sam Brand, Sacred Heart pastor; and Knights’ leaders Jack Blatchford and Jerry Lobmeyer.
Newman student Thomas Prater was thinking about buying a car and had been looking for quite some time. He needed something affordable and reliable to get him from point A to point B.
During his winter break trip to his hometown of Arkansas City, Kansas, he was getting close to taking the plunge. That’s when his parents suggested they head to a dealership.
However, when they arrived, there were quite a few people there waiting for them.
“My priest, Father Sam, knew I needed a vehicle and so my parish knew as well,” said Prater. “I was surprised to see Father Sam there along with another member of our parish, Jack Blatchford.”
His first thought was that they were there to help him with a small donation and he would then pay the difference. But something else happened instead.
Prater was astonished when he was handed the keys to a 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser.
It all started when Blatchford, a member of the Knights of Columbus, had heard about Prater’s situation and decided to take action. The Knights agreed to sponsor Prater as a seminarian studying for the priesthood.
The next step was to find a reliable vehicle for Prater. Since Blatchford had worked at Zeller Motors as a salesman for 17 years, he knew just the person to call.
Wit Goebel, general manager, found a vehicle for Blatchford to test drive, and it was determined that the car would be a good fit for Prater. The car was then refurbished by Goebel’s team.
The result was a very shocked and happy college freshman. He said his commute from the St. Joseph House of Formation will be much easier now.
“I had no idea what they were planning — it was a complete surprise to me,” said Prater. “Getting to and from Newman is going to be a lot easier. I won’t have to worry about getting a ride all the time, whether it’s to school or spiritual direction meetings or wherever. And not having to worry about payments is huge.”
After Prater earns his bachelor’s degree at Newman, and if he decides to continue in the seminarian process, he will move on to either Chicago or St. Louis for his graduate degree. Altogether, Prater will have about eight years of higher education before being ordained as a minister.
He said attending Newman University has been a great experience so far. With small class sizes and his connection with other seminarians, he said he is already forming many friendships.
As for his journey in the seminary program, he said the calling came at a young age.
“It had always been in the back of my mind, since elementary and throughout middle school and while forming great friendships at Catholic events. The priesthood was always at the top of my list as far as my future was concerned.
“I really feel at home here, at Newman and St. Joseph, and the house isn’t just focused on good men that can become priests, but focused on human formation and becoming better men.”