Fr. Dustin Johns, a convert to Catholicism, occasionally attended Mass as a child with his grandparents. Though he couldn’t put words to it, he could sense that something in that sacred space was different.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I was sensing the true presence of God,” Fr. Dustin says. “Many years later I was invited to attend Mass at St. Leo’s in Minot, and I was awestruck by the beauty of the Mass. I felt the same Presence and began RCIA.”
Fr. Dustin’s journey to the priesthood took him all around the world. He didn’t know what to do after high school, so he joined the Air Force and traveled extensively. He had hoped to eventually settle down, so he entered the civil service and continued working for the Air Force as a civilian.
“I went into a dark place, and I knew there had to be more meaning to life than what I had,” Fr. Dustin says. “Several good friends helped me out, and I became a paramedic in Minot for about 12 years and also a scoutmaster. I realized I really liked working with kids and decided to become a teacher.”
While Fr. Dustin tried different career paths, he also went to different churches — but still felt like something was missing. Something stirred in his heart, and he began talking with an acquaintance about religion, which led to him attending Mass. Shortly thereafter, he fell in love with the Catholic faith through RCIA, and he entered the Church on April 23, 2011.
“I became involved in all aspects of the parish because I felt very fulfilled,” Fr. Dustin says. “I also saw the joy of the priesthood and began to think that maybe the priesthood could be for me.”
Though he began the application process, Fr. Dustin describes feeling a real sense of fear. The Air Force was the only life he had really ever known. He was also nervous about the reaction of his mother, who raised him as a Seventh Day Adventist while his father was a fallen-away Catholic.
“For a time, I got cold feet and wondered if I was making the right choice,” Fr. Dustin says. “In 2016 on Good Friday, I prayed that if this was what God wanted me to do, He was going to have to give me a sign. After the service, I opened my phone and saw a meme about how God might ask you to close a window if He has something better in mind for you.”
Fr. Dustin made a choice, and in August 2016, he entered St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and completed a spiritual year there.
“I was still learning my faith, and my relationship with God was still pretty shallow at that time,” he says. “I really learned how to pray and build a foundational relationship with God. I went through a lot of healing, and it was a great year.”
Then Fr. Dustin studied philosophy in Denver and also went on to study theology in St. Louis. On June 12, he was ordained to the priesthood. Since becoming a priest, he has most enjoyed celebrating the Mass and hearing Confessions.
“In Confession, you sit with a person as they share their soul, and you’re able to give them the mercy that I know I have received in my life,” Fr. Dustin says. “I just have this love for Confession, and Jesus is right there transferring His love through me.”
Fr. Dustin has always loved being outdoors and hiking and fishing. In his free time, he enjoys our local state parks.
“I also really like to watch sports, especially basketball, and baseball,” Fr. Dustin says. “I do love reading too, and my favorite book right now is A Priest Is Not His Own by Fulton J. Sheen.”
On July 1, Fr. Dustin formally became Ascension’s new Associate Pastor, and he looks forward to walking with community members in their faith journeys.
“I can’t wait to get to know you, to serve you, and to be part of your church family,” Fr. Dustin says. “If anyone is thinking about the priesthood, keep praying, and trust in the Lord who knows what is best for you. I will pray for you too.”