Being an Augustinian priest has given Father Fred Taggert a life of travel, teaching and preaching. His time with the Augustinians began in high school, more than 60 years ago.
As a sophomore, Fred Taggert heard a whisper calling him to the Augustinian Order and life as a priest. After a classmate announced his intention to begin studies toward the priesthood, the whisper became a shout for Father Fred. “I thought, if this guy can do it, so can I,” he says. “I felt an inkling to become a priest – also I wanted to become a teacher.”
Fred met with Father James Lyne, the priest who supported his wish to join the Augustinians. Father Fred’s mother did not. “I brought it up to my mother, and she said, ‘no,’” says Father Fred. “A very emphatic ‘no.’”
He told Father Lyne his mother was against the idea of him joining the Augustinians, and Father Lyne wisely told Fred to just let the topic rest. After a period of time, Father Lyne eventually came to talk to Fred’s parents. “I don’t know what was said, but I remember trying to listen through the floor,” he says.
After the visit, Fred’s father encouraged him. His mother thought her son was too young, but she agreed to let him go to St. Augustine Seminary in Saugatuck, certain he would want to come home.
At the beginning of his junior year of high school, Fred left for seminary, which immediately felt like home. The former Felt Mansion, built in 1928, was right on Lake Michigan. “It was a beautiful piece of land,” says Father Fred. “I was perfectly content.”
For the next 11 years, Fred studied to become a teacher at the same time he prepared for ordination. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, with minors in math and science, from Villanova University.
He started out teaching freshman algebra to 36 students, worked in a parish on the weekend, ran the Mother’s Club and continued his own education. “I got ordained and I’m teaching, which I love,” says Father Fred. “I was happy.”
Guided by his order, Father Fred has spent 50 years serving the Augustinians. In addition to his work in the classroom and in different parishes, Father Fred has worked in vocations for the order and as a prison chaplain.
He has lived in community with Augustinians and also with diocesan priests. After his retirement, Father Fred looks forward to living with the other Augustinian priests at St. Matthew Parish in Flint, where he has been pastor for 20 years.
Since his consecrated life began, Father Fred has lived alone at times, but prefers living in community.
“If you try to keep your focus on the Lord, when you are all together it’s a lot easier,” he says. “We are like a family. It’s kind of crazy to say that, but it really is true. The bottom line is I really want to live in community.”
Sister Rita Wenzlick, OP, is the delegate for consecrated life for the Diocese of Lansing. For news on consecrated life and resources for the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life, please visit www.dioceseoflansing.org/consecrated_life.