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The student news site of Dowling Catholic High School

The Dowling Catholic Post

The student news site of Dowling Catholic High School

The Dowling Catholic Post

Dowling’s Beacon of Light

Father Arcea
Fr. Acrea holding his special rosary of three beads. Each bead symbolizes one Hail Mary.
Danny Pierick
Fr. Acrea holding his special rosary of three beads. Each bead symbolizes one Hail Mary.

Dowling Catholic High School has a rich tradition of keeping the Catholic faith present. Since its opening in 1972, Dowling has maintained a school where students can learn more deeply about their faith. Dowling encourages students to embrace their faith and ensures it’s a part of their everyday life. There are many people whose job is to instill Catholic values in these students’ education. However, it is undeniable that Fr. John Acrea stands out as a cornerstone of our school’s faith life.

Father Arcea is a priest at Dowling who has directly impacted students’ lives here. Whether it’s through reconciliation or a homily, Father Acrea always manages to bring light to students’ lives. However, his journey to the priesthood wasn’t as graceful and had many dark moments.

Growing up in the countryside of western Iowa, Father Acrea wasn’t firm on a career choice. 

“I liked fishing so I thought about being a conservation officer. I thought about that for a while. Then, in grade school, I thought about being a priest. However, when I hit puberty that idea fell apart. Later, I thought about being a teacher for a long time. Then the idea of priesthood came back.”

Father Acrea’s decision to consider being a priest wasn’t initially planned. After a conversion experience at 17, his life changed. The ability to join the priesthood made Father Acrea’s life much more complicated. Swayed by his family’s and friends’ opinions he didn’t know what was the best choice. 

“I wasn’t sure if priesthood was the best option for me. I tried to trick God in various ways to try to get what I wanted. For example, I applied for two scholarships; one at Loras College and one at the University of Northern Iowa. I told God that if I was awarded the scholarship at Loras then I would become a priest. If I was given a scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa, I would become a teacher. 

Scared of having to make a choice eventually, Acrea waited. A couple of months passed and he nearly forgot about the dilemma entirely. Then one day, after lunch, he found two envelopes. As he panned his eyes over the letters, he noticed they were from both colleges. Ecstatic, he tore both envelopes open.

“The envelope from UNI said that I was awarded a 4-year partial scholarship worth around 2,000 dollars. The envelope from Loras said I was awarded a 1-year scholarship worth around 4,000 dollars. Trying to trick God into doing what I wanted didn’t work. I later talked with a priest and a friend of mine, and I ended up going to Loras. However, I didn’t study to become a priest there right away.”

During his time at Loras, Acrea’s opinion of the priesthood began to change. As he saw the seminaries and participated in Latin courses, Acrea’s curiosity began to take over. He joined the seminary his sophomore year and from there he was sold.

“I made really good friends who were in the priesthood and enjoyed it immensely. But, going to public school and thinking about the priesthood can be frowned upon. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was thinking about joining the priesthood and I avoided telling my folks for a long time.: 

Acrea began to grow in his spiritual journey without his family knowing about his decision. He carried on this career choice and it became harder to hide. Eventually, the truth came out unexpectedly. 

“My dad found out I was seriously considering the priesthood when I was down at the rectory, speaking to a priest. I was signing some papers, and the priest asked me when my folks were married. I didn’t know so I told him I would look it up and get back to him. The priest told me to use the phone next to us and get it done right now.”

Petrified, Acrea realized that his hiding was done. He tried to think of alternative options to avoid calling them but realized he had no choice. He reluctantly grabbed the phone and called home.

“My Dad answered, and I asked him what day he and Mom were married. He asked why I needed to know that. I told him that I was signing up for the priesthood.”

His father took the news very well and eased a lot of Acrea’s concerns. From there on, Acrea continued on the road to becoming a priest. 

After being ordained, Acrea came to Dowling Catholic after being appointed in 1962. While at Dowling, Father has been in the roles of an associate pastor, vocation director, and pastor. Other jobs Acrea has been a part of are a JUG supervisor, a cafeteria helper, a wrestling coach, and a teacher.

Fr. John Acrea during the 1968 school year. (The 1968 Dowling Catholic Yearbook)

“While at Dowling, I’ve enjoyed experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation. I like to tell people that the confessional is the most joyful room in all of the school because that is where sins are forgiven. I’ve also enjoyed preaching to the school and teaching various classes.”

Father Acrea has been and will continue to be a beacon of light for DCHS. Through his humble teachings and generosity, Students have advanced their faith in God. Our school has managed to keep the faith close to the students due to our pastors. Without Father Acrea, Dowling Catholic’s faith would not be as prominent.


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Danny Pierick
Danny Pierick, Staff Writer
Danny Pierick is a junior at Dowling Catholic High School. He is involved in soccer, track, mock trial, speech, academic decathlon, Ut Fidem, and students for life. When he isn't at school, Danny enjoys volunteering at his church and spending time with his family.

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