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For most of his adult life, Maurice Geldert, OD, was not a religious man.
For most of his adult life, Maurice Geldert, OD, was not a religious man. In fact, Dr. Geldert says he was an atheist and an alcoholic. But, all that changed one day when he was backpacking in the mountains of the Weminuche Wilderness in southern Colorado, an area he had hiked in for many years.
"I was working my way out of the mountain when I stopped to take a drink of water and looked around," said Dr. Geldert, who practices at Roswell Vision Source in Roswell, NM. "It was a bad time in my life. All of a sudden, the thought hit me-'God, if you're there, I need you. I can't do this by myself anymore.' "
A rural calling
For the past several years, Dr. Geldert has served as the vicar of the rector at an Episcopal church in Artesia, NM, a small town 45 miles south of Roswell. He conducts Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services for the 40 people in his parish. When needed, he also visits hospitalized patients and conducts religious ceremonies-everything from baptisms and weddings to funerals.
Yet, he never receives any payment for his services.
"There's an enormous shortage of clergy in all major denominations," Dr. Geldert said, explaining that since church membership has steadily declined, many parishes cannot afford to pay for clergy so they must support themselves in other ways. "Most people come into the clergy as a second vocation or are bi-vocational people."
Roughly 1 year after his mountain vision, Dr. Geldert became a lay minister. He dreamed about becoming a priest, but believed it was too late because of his age-he was in his mid 50s. Then, one afternoon, he was assisting the local bishop to perform a confirmation and baptism. During the service, the bishop turned to him and asked, "Maurice, when are you going to come talk to me about your call to Holy Orders?"
"He just knocked me off my feet," Dr. Geldert said. "That's when I realized God was telling me I needed to do something else."
The next big step
So he came home and told his wife that he wanted to become a priest. Dr. Geldert said that he will never forget her reaction. She asked, "We're not going to have to become missionaries, are we?"
For the next 3 years, he studied at the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, which offered classes within his local diocese. He completed a variety of courses, such as systematic theology, Old and New Testament, and Christian morals and ethics. Every quarter, he traveled to the seminary for 4 or 5 days, taking exams and engaging in class discussions with other clergy.
He first was ordained as a deacon in 2006, then as a priest the following year.