Navigating Family And Faith After Leaving The Priesthood

Jan 16, 2020

After years serving as a priest in the Catholic Church, Mike Tynan decided he wanted instead to get married and start a family of his own. But Catholic priests aren't allowed to do either, so he chose to leave the church instead.

Mike sat down with his son, David, in the StoryCorps booth when it was in Columbus this past summer. They spoke about Mike's journey leaving the priesthood, finding his wife Norma and continuing to practice his faith.

Mike decided to leave the priesthood even before he found love—unlike some other ex-priests, who face the decision of leaving the ministry after meeting someone.

"I decided that I wanted to be married before I met somebody," Mike said. "So it was kind of a challenge to take a risk like that. Would I meet somebody, for example, and where would I meet somebody?"

Mike stopped his role as a priest in 1978, and met someone just a year later. While visiting his aunts in Toledo, Mike saw a woman at Sunday mass who caught his eye.

"I saw across the aisle this young woman. I thought she was kind of cute," Mike said.

It turned out that his aunt knew the woman, whose name was Norma Schroeder, and the two were eventually introduced.

Mike and Norma married in 1980.

"It seems like it kind of came full circle. You know, that you met your wife in church, right?" David asked.

Mike agreed: "It wasn't just 'I want to get married.' I want to get married to this person."

Though Mike was no longer a priest, he and his wife remained devout Catholics. In addition to their life within the church, they also ministered to Catholics who may have felt ostracized or unwelcome in the faith, which is against church rules.

Mike recalled a story from when David was young, when David asked why his sister's baptism was taking place in their home instead of at church.

"I said, 'Well, because I'm not allowed to do these things in church because I left the priesthood.' And you said, 'Would it help if we hid?' And I said, 'What do you mean?' And you said, 'Well, if we hid and the people in charge didn't know about us, then you could continue to work as a priest.'"

For Mike, it was telling that his six-year-old couldn't make sense of a church ruling that didn't match their family's values.

David remembers asking his father why they didn't switch to another form of Chritianity. Mike replied that being Catholic was an important part of his identity.

Mike said he and others who left the priesthood would joke that being Catholic was in the DNA.

"So even though I was disobeying some of the church's rules, I still consider myself to be Catholic," he says.

Mike and David Tynan were recorded in the StoryCorps mobile recording booth when it was in Columbus in 2019.

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