Story and photos by Danielle McGrew Tenbusch
For newly ordained Father Adam Maher, the journey to the priesthood was a long and winding road before returning like the prodigal son to his Father, thanks to his family, faithful upbringing and the people God brought into his life when he needed them most.
The middle child of John and Gail Maher of Port Sanilac, Father Adam grew up attending St. Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows Church (now Ave Maria Parish) with his parents and brothers, Paul and Travis, each Sunday.
‘‘Church has always been an important part of our lives,” Gail said. She and John were very involved in their sons’ lives, schools and church.
Still, Adam lacked a personal relationship with the Lord. Instead, he prioritized sports and popularity. After graduation, he attended Saginaw Valley State University to study special education.
“I ended up getting more into the party scene,” he said, adding he was binge drinking every weekend for the first few years of college. His grades suffered and he didn’t attend church.
“I was a complete wreck. Three times, I ended up going to the hospital due to alcohol-related incidents. One of them was really, really bad: I ended up fighting with a fraternity brother and cracking my head open on the cement,” he said.
During a procedure to staple his head wound, his heart stopped for eight seconds.
He was resuscitated and recalled waking up wearing a neck brace surrounded by his family and girlfriend. He couldn’t move or talk.
“It was really humbling. It was a really dark time,” he said.
Father Adam continued to struggle with alcohol, eventually being arrested on an impaired driving charge. It was while sitting overnight in jail that everything changed.
“I just realized I can’t do this ... I remember crying out to the Lord and asking for help. It was really at that time I decided there’s something more. I’ve got to start seeking something more.
“I remember thinking about my parents. I remember thinking about the joy that they have and the trust they have in God, and I wanted that. They were happy – they are happy ... I remember looking at them, (thinking) ‘I want that faith. I want to be happy.’ But I knew it was because they knew the Lord,” he said. “I just remember this thirst for Scripture to read about Jesus and get to know about Him who my parents trusted. And so I did.”
Father Adam realized his mistakes. He turned to the Word of God, and read the entire Bible.
“I loved it. I fell in love with Jesus, discovering who He is and what He did for me. He stole my heart,” he said. “(God) pulled me out of that pit and led me away from the party scene. I stopped going to the parties. I was just so hungry and thirsty to learn more and more about Jesus.”
I fell in love with Jesus, discovering who He is and what He did for me. He stole my heart.
He described this sudden conversion as “diving into a relationship” with Jesus, spending time in prayer and talking with Him as the Lord moved in his life.
Father Adam spent the last years of college jumping between different Protestant churches and campus organizations. His parents attended church services with him at other denominations as well.
“I knew that he had the love of the Lord and believed in Jesus,” said his father, John, who never lost hope for his son. “It all just sort of fell into place.”
One day, the pastor of a Methodist church he was attending told Father Adam that he needed to find a home to grow in.
“I went to all the churches I was attending at the time and started really prying into what they believe,” he said. “After hearing them, I was not satisfied.”
Finally, he felt he should give the Catholic Church another try. By this time, Father Adam was a special education teacher in Marlette. He walked into St. Elizabeth Church, Holy Family Parish, and knelt down like he had learned as a child.
“But I didn’t know what I was kneeling in front of,” he said, referring to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
After a few minutes, a young woman named Elisa (Kreiner) Huacuja approached Father Adam and invited him to sit with her and her family. He accepted, and found himself sitting in the front pew with her large, devout family. Although she doesn’t remember inviting Adam to sit with her family, Elisa attributes it to a prompting of the Holy Spirit and coming from a vibrant Catholic university.
Elisa was preparing to begin a master’s program in theology in Dallas, Texas, and Father Adam came to her with all his questions on Church teaching, beliefs and practices.
“When I first met Adam, he had such a hunger for Christ and such a hunger for the truth. That’s all that mattered to him: following Jesus and knowing what Jesus said, what Jesus taught and what is the truth,” Elisa said.
“I remember when it all clicked ... realizing that the Faith is so much bigger than just here on earth ... From that moment on, I was Catholic. One hundred percent. I got back to Confession and immersed myself in the sacraments,” Father Adam said.
“He just had this desire to give Jesus to other people and to share Him with other people,” Elisa said. “He just kept speaking over and over again about this idea of giving up everything for Jesus, and finally I said, ‘Adam, why don’t you talk to the vocations director?’”
Elisa added that she didn’t think that he was going to be a priest, but rather expected Father Adam to find spiritual direction to help him fulfill that desire. God had His own plans.
One day, fellow parishioner Fred Mroczek asked Father Adam if he had ever considered the priesthood. He had not, but he prayed about it. During his discernment, two others whom Father Adam did not know told him they believed he was called to the priesthood, further cementing the idea this was God’s will.
About a year after returning to the Catholic Church, Father Adam approached his parish priest, Father Andrzej Boroch.
“He, very wisely, said, ‘No. You wait a year and pray more about it,’ because he knows me – as soon as I get really pumped about something, I want to do it right away,” Father Adam said.
Each morning for the next year, he prayed a Rosary with a small group of parishioners, and at the conclusion felt a “great peace” about his vocation.
Although he was confident about his decision, Father Adam acknowledged that it was difficult.
“I think when I was teaching, there was a certain restlessness that there was something more that God was calling me on to. I loved teaching ... But I wanted to talk to them about Jesus,” Father Adam said.
As a priest, Father Adam knew he would be able to continue teaching while sharing his deepest love, Jesus. He described being able to replace restlessness with joy.
“I’m gaining it all,” he said. “I get to teach about the one I love and be united more deeply, closely to the one I love.”
His parents also see Father Adam’s joy and enthusiasm.
“We were definitely surprised when Adam told us he wanted to go to the seminary, but we also could see his excitement and enthusiasm. With each year of seminary, we could see that this was making him happy and was what he had been searching for. He has a true love for God and such joy for sharing His word,” Gail said.
Father Adam describes every year since entering Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit as an affirmation of his call. From his years studying philosophy and theology to each of his pastoral experiences.
“Now that I’m a priest, it still is. Is it easy? No, it’s not easy. But I know God is with me, and I pray all the time, and I think that I’m in a good place,” Father Adam said.
His dependence on God has become even clearer as Father Adam began his first assignment as pastoral administrator of Our Lady Consolata Parish, which consists of churches in Cass City, Gagetown, Sebewaing and Wilmot. Father Adam said the parishioners have been welcoming and helpful, making the transition smooth. Still, his role can be overwhelming at times.
“I’ve spent many times on my knees, face down in front of the tabernacle already in these first weeks, just (praying) ‘Lord I can’t do it, I can’t do it.’ I just hear back, ‘Yes, but you’re the only one I want to do it right now,’ Father Adam said. “(God) has always been there before and I know He’ll continue to be there for me.”
(God) has always been there before and I know He’ll continue to be there for me.
Father Adam says that the Lord keeps telling him in prayer, “Just be a passionate lover of me; that’s it, and I’ll take care of you.”
For Father Adam, the most impactful part of being a priest is celebrating Mass and praying the words of consecration. It calls to mind an image Father Adam had during a silent retreat while in his second year at seminary.
While praying with the Gospel passage about Jesus multiplying the loaves, Father Adam saw himself as a little boy with his family, one group among many listening to Jesus. After a while, Jesus came down the mountain and tapped the child Adam on the shoulder and asked him to help. When young Adam said yes, Jesus handed him a basket of bread and instructed him to give it to his family and friends.
Now, as a priest, Father Adam is able to do that.
“It’s just a lot of joy when you realize you’re doing what God wants you to do,” he said.
“It’s extremely special and emotional,” John said about receiving the Eucharist from his son. “It’s just amazing.”
“We have been blessed with three wonderful sons and are equally proud of each of them and the paths that they have chosen but this one surprised us the most,” Gail said.
Father Adam also wants to share a message with others who may be discerning the priesthood:
“It’s worth it. When I left teaching and chose the celibate state as well, you always get to this point where you ask, ‘Will Jesus be enough?’ If you ask the Lord that in all sincerity, I think He will tell them, ‘I am,’” he said. “Jesus is enough.”