By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published June 7, 2007
Though he never envisioned himself in an administrative role in the archdiocese, Father Luke Ballman said he was honored when Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory asked him to serve as the new vocations director.
Father Ballman, pastor of St. Augustine Church in Covington, will succeed Father Brian Higgins, who will become the chaplain at Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville. Father Higgins has served as the vocations director for the archdiocese since 2002.
The new assignments are effective June 21.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Father Ballman is 41 and entered the seminary after graduating from the University of Dayton with a degree in business administration and working in financial management for seven years.
While a seminarian he studied in Rome, Italy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Angelicum.
Ordained in July 2001 by Archbishop John F. Donoghue, Father Ballman’s first assignment as a priest was as a parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta. He served there for four years until he was named pastor of St. Augustine. In 2003, Archbishop Donoghue appointed Father Ballman to a three-year term as a Vicar for Clergy.
Father Ballman said he was “honored and humbled” by Archbishop Gregory choosing him as the new vocations director.
“I really respect him and the fact that he has placed this trust in me has definitely made an impact on me,” Father Ballman said.
Though looking forward to his archdiocesan job, Father Ballman admits the feeling is bittersweet.
“I’m sad I won’t be in a parish, definitely. My vocation, my dream, my yearning, has always been in parish ministry,” he said. “I really never saw myself in an administrative role. But God has guided me every step of the way, and so, because of that, I have great peace.”
Father Ballman said that with each new assignment he has felt trepidation but has quickly adapted.
“I felt the same way when I left Holy Spirit to come (to St. Augustine), and I felt the same way when I left the seminary. But I tend to settle in easily, and I think it will feel like home pretty quickly,” he said.
He also feels that his love for parish ministry will be of service to the young men in seminary formation for the archdiocese.
“I think the archbishop wants someone who does love parish ministry and has a zeal for that because we are recruiting men to be parish priests,” he said.
As he settles into his new assignment, Father Ballman said he would use this summer to get to know the seminarians.
“I hope this summer, while they’re out of seminary, to get to spend a good amount of time getting to know the guys and where they are in their personal formation, to learn a little bit about their stories,” he said.
In addition, he will be assisting with the annual seminarian retreat and with the 2007 Serra International Convention, which will be held in Atlanta Aug. 9-12 for the international lay organization dedicated to fostering and promoting vocations within the Catholic Church.
Above all, Father Ballman hopes to be a good example to those considering the priesthood or religious life.
“I want to bring a joy and a love for the church and Jesus Christ and a joyful witness to the priesthood,” he said.