By Jan Pullella
For The Catholic Messenger
He grew up on the farm in Richland, Iowa, population 500. You might say Father Chuck Adam’s vocation was “organic.” First, he was an altar boy and joined his parents and 12 siblings in being active in their parish and on the farm.
He may have thought about becoming a priest at the end of high school, but wasn’t ready to admit to it. Instead he attended the University of Iowa where a handful of his high school friends were also students. A popular course on Religion in Human Culture, taught by a rabbi, and a course in philosophy increased his interest in faith. That first year of college was a time of learning a great deal about himself. Uncertain about his career path, Adam took a semester off from studies. He returned to work on the farm to put his hands in the truth that comes from simple things.
“After that I came to St. Ambrose (College in Davenport) and was accepted as a seminarian,” Fr. Adam says. “I was surrounded by wonderful, happy priests and that was a big influence on commitment to the priesthood. I remember that one gentleman back home told me I should be a priest. That was the first nudging I received. I learned later that fellow told all boys the same thing!”
Fr. Adam says that being a regular college student while attending prayer meetings helped solidify his calling to the priesthood. He attended Catholic University of America for his master’s degree in theology. His served his first parish assignment as parochial vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. Then he served as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City before being named pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa.
Later, he was appointed chaplain and director of Campus Ministry at St. Ambrose. He also served as diocesan vocation director and rector of the former college-level seminary at St. Ambrose. Last year, Fr. Adam was assigned as pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville.
“I loved my time working with students,” says Fr. Adam. “The young people at St. Ambrose are a generous, good-hearted bunch. They get involved, not just in campus ministry but in service to the poor and in the community. I hope that I have helped students take ownership of their faith. Working with them has been very satisfying.”
Growing up in a family dedicated to faith and farming meant that he and his siblings learned to work hard and use their God-given talents at an early age. Three of the Adam brothers became priests. Father Nick Adam is the pastor in Fairfield and Father Rich Adam is the pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.
Their other siblings went in different directions, all in roles of service: a pilot, financial advisor, farmer, three engineers, teachers and a health care worker. He has 23 nieces and nephews.
Although the path to priesthood was not crystal clear to him when he was young, Fr. Adam says he is able to look back and affirm the ways God was working to lead him to the priesthood. He believes that coming from a faith-filled family made his vocation journey easier. Family prayer, including the evening rosary, was a part of everyday life in his childhood. His uncle, Father Ray Pacha, a priest of the Davenport Diocese, was a significant role model. The parish pastors of Richland came frequently to visit the Adam household. Rich and Chuck Adam came to know seminarians who visited their house with older brother Nick.
The boys came to see that priests and seminarians were not all that different — and “they seemed to be having a lot of fun!” Fr. Chuck Adam says. “There is great satisfaction in knowing that I’m doing what God has called me to do.”
(Jan Pullella is a member of the Sacred Heart Vocations Committee in Davenport.)