Spotlight: Father Mike Shay

September 14, 2009

Father MikeOnly girls attended Silver Lake College until 1969 when the school officially became co-educational.  Well, that’s almost true.  There was one male who attended Silver Lake before 1969, and that man was Brother Michael Shay, who matriculated in 1965.

“I didn’t find out until many years later what a tremendous uproar I caused by sauntering in the door and asking for an application at Holy Family College,” says Father Mike Shay.  And since then, he says, “It’s been quite a ride, I’ll tell you!”

Michael Shay was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas.  After high school, he became a candidate for the Salvadorian brothers, and after he was professed, he was sent to California to learn bookkeeping.  “I hadn’t had a lick of bookkeeping,” Father Mike says, but bookkeeping is what brought him to Newton, WI, where he was the bookkeeper of the farm/monastery/summer camp of the Salvadorian brothers for about 3 years, until the provincial asked him to go to school to become a teacher.

That’s when (then-) Brother Mike walked into the doors of Silver Lake College and asked to be admitted.  In the end, he was accepted, and decided to study History and Social Studies with a minor in Library Science.  Father Mike remembers, “Sister Anne Patrick turned me on to math.  I flunked in high school, but when I took basic math in college, I got straight A’s.”  After surviving through a demanding biology class from Julia Marie, where he “identified and counted water creatures like every Biology 101 student for generations”,  he graduated Cum Laude and on the Dean’s List.  Father Mike remembers that during his experience at Silver Lake College, the college was in the process of becoming NCATE Accredited for the first time.  “Boy, those nuns worked hard on that!” he remembers gratefully.  Because of that accreditation, his teaching credentials were accepted in 33 states automatically.

Brother Mike continued teaching after graduation at JFK Prep- the Salvadorian Seminary.  At the closure of that school, he decided to go to the Washington Theological Coalition to become a priest.  He was ordained in 1973 and “cannot tell you where the 36 years went”.  He became involved in parish ministry while he was a deacon and was “grabbed” by parish life.  He worked at a number of churches, from Nevada to Alabama to Arizona to one of the largest parishes in Milwaukee.

In 2000, he asked his provincial if he could get back to Arizona where he had been stolen from.  He got a letter from a priest in Green Valley requesting help with a little mission church, which in 2002 became a real parish: San Martin de Porres in Sahuarita, Arizona.  He’s been there for there for nine years now, and loves his work.  His favorite part of being a priest is, “just being allowed into people’s lives to have an effect upon them and their relationships and spiritual lives.”

Father Mike still makes it back to Manitowoc every once in a while.  Just this spring, he came back for a little trip to visit Sister Laura Wolf, who was a friend of his while he studied at Silver Lake.  Back in college, they took their entrance exams together and took many of the same classes.  He says, “She became a lawyer and I got ordained.  She told me she always kept my ordination card in her prayer book and prayed for me regularly.”  He truly values his experience at Silver Lake and the friendships he has formed along the way, and we’re certainly proud of him: our very first alumnus!

Father Mike welcomes any comments or questions about where his life has brought him since graduating Holy Family (Silver Lake) College.

You may reach him at:

San Martín de Porres Parish

P.O. Box 65

Sahuarita, AZ  85629

520-625-3232 (home)



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