Fr. Kevin Embach, SJ: From Medicine to the Priesthood
by Daniel Meloy
Fr. Embach ordained for to the priesthood after 18 years as a doctor
August 29, 2018 — For most of his life, Fr. Kevin Embach, SJ, had two desires: to practice medicine and to serve God.
Fr. Kevin Embach, SJ, was ordained to the priesthood on June 9, 2018.
“I had two uncles who were physicians, and I admired them a lot,” Fr. Embach said. “When I went to college, I liked science and helping people so I knew then I wanted to be a doctor.”
Growing up in Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Mich., Fr. Embach attended the parish high school before moving on to the University of Notre Dame, where his twofold desire intensified.
“I went to Notre Dame for pre-med, where I got to go to Mass every day. By the time of my senior year, I felt this call to the priesthood, but I didn’t know what to do with the call,” he said.
Wanting to serve God’s people, but also still feeling the calling to become a doctor, he completed a master’s in public health in epidemiology at the University of Michigan before entering medical school.
“I said, ‘Lord, let me become a physician first,’” Fr. Embach said. “But the idea of the priesthood didn’t go away. I went to the University of Virginia for medical school, and I came back to the Detroit area, working at Beaumont and Bon Secours hospitals in Detroit with the internal medicine residency program. I liked taking care of patients, but the idea of the priesthood wouldn’t go away.”
After practicing medicine for 18 years at Bon Secours Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich., the call of the collar became too much to resist, and in 2009, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Berkley, Mich.
“My desire to practice medicine and teach medical students was still there, but I love to be a Jesuit and talk to people about God,” said Fr. Embach, who was ordained a priest on June 9 of this year at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee. “The focal point of the synoptic Gospels is the proclamation of the kingdom of God. You see examples of healing and compassion for the sick, healing people spiritually and emotionally.”
During his formation in St. Paul, Minn., and in Chicago, Fr. Embach continued his work as a doctor with the Loyola School of Medicine in Chicago, teaching aspiring medical students and organizing mission trips to Haiti, Bolivia, and Honduras.
Upon ordination, Fr. Embach was assigned to the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb., where he will be teaching intern doctors and caring for the spiritual needs of patients.
“There is a lot of hunger and spirituality for people to know God; that’s something I could see while practicing medicine as a layman,” Fr. Embach said. Now as a Jesuit priest, “the whole concept of Ignatian spirituality is helping people to find God in the world.”
For a man who for so long was torn between medicine and the priesthood, it's fitting that he's been given an assignment where he can offer the daily sacrifice of the Eucharist and train the next generations of physicians to care for the body and the soul.
“What I love about being a priest is finding God in everything,” Fr. Embach said. “Part of Ignatian spirituality is knowing God is very much active in our world.”
“I find God very much behind the science and complexity of our universe,” he added. “There is a great order to our existence, but that order will eventually fail, and we will eventually die. That failing of the human body points to the afterlife, to Christ. Christ found the sick and the suffering, and He healed them. That’s what we’re doing in health care, healing the body and the soul.”Republished with permission from The Michigan Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Detroit