Rev. Donald Cramer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Cramer I of Hershey, Pennsylvania, earned a bachelor of arts degree in labor and industrial relations at the Pennsylvania State University. He received a master of divinity degree, with honors, from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2000. In 2001, he earned a master of arts degree, with high honors, from the Seminary.
This article is from The Catholic Witness, August 10, 2001.
By Jen Reed
HARRISBURG — For the recently ordained Father Donald Cramer, parochial vicar at Good Shepherd Parish in Camp Hill, “the idea of considering a religious vocation was very natural,” as he grew up in Hershey, attending St. Joan of Arc Parish and its parochial school there.
Living the Catholic faith at home and in school, he said, “was what we did; it’s how we approached life. . . . It was never something separate, [but] was weaved into how I was raised.”
As often occurs in parochial schools, the priests, sisters and seminarians of St. Joan’s parish and school often visited Father Cramer and his classmates, and “this allowed us to consider a vocation on par with any other kind of vocation we could be considering,” he said. The idea of becoming a priest or religious was not perceived as strange or out of the question because religious vocations were all around him, he added.
When he entered college, Father Cramer began “a mature dialogue with God.” At the time, he was still focusing on a career, but he said he “did a lot of searching, and there was a lot of gray area there, as far as trying to figure out what life and God were all about.”
He enrolled in various courses and entered a few different fields of study, he said, but found himself feeling unsettled, questioning “why God would give you different kinds of gifts [but] it always seemed like you had to pick one. I couldn’t understand it, so I would never quite be happy, no matter where I was.”
After hopping from course to course, he began to pray intensely to God about the path he should take. Father Cramer said that the more he opened himself up to God, the more he was convinced he should enter the seminary. He was ordained a priest June 2, 2001.
Father Cramer said he often thinks of how blessed he was to have grown up in the diocese he now serves. At St. Joan’s, “I was raised with one pastor, Msgr. Leo Bierster, and the consistency of having one particular priest constantly providing a particular kind of formation was a big help” in his discernment, he said.
He also recalls attending Masses celebrated by some of those who are now his fellow priests, amazed that he is now “a fellow worker in the vineyard,” he said. “Those who were great role models when I was a little kid are still great role models.”
In the short time he has spent in his first assignment, Father Cramer said he is overwhelmed by the beauty of priestly life and how much the faithful have given him spiritually. “We seek ordination because we want to serve God and serve others, yet we’re so enriched by the ministry we do . . . . There is just so much return that comes from it,” he said.