While in junior high, Scott Traynor wanted to be a Navy pilot.
“I wanted to spend my life doing something that was challenging, adventurous and demanded the best I had to offer,” he told the Denver Catholic Register.
Securing a Navy ROTC scholarship, he was studying computer engineering at Iowa State University with the goal to become a naval aviator when he spent one summer volunteering at a youth camp. He woke up one morning with the clear conviction that God had a plan for his life.
“That is how I’m going to be most happy, and I’ve never asked God what that plan is … and I should,” he recalled. “So I determined to take a year off of school, do some mission work and ask God what his plan for me is.”
He did, and while praying one day “for God to raise up outstanding priests,” he heard a call he didn’t expect.
“I heard Jesus say in my heart, ‘I want you to be my priest,’” he said. “I was honest with the Lord in that moment, and told him that being a priest was the last thing I wanted to do but that I trusted him, and his plan.”
He told Christ that if he wanted him to be a priest, to give him the desire to be one.
“I prayed that prayer every day and by the time six months later I had finished with NET Ministries (mission work), I was eager to pursue the priesthood,” he said.
The following month he attended Denver’s World Youth Day 1993 with 150 other NET alumni.
“The moment Blessed John Paul II came to the microphone at Mile High and began ‘Dear young people, I greet you in the name of Christ!’ I knew in my heart that all the desires I had to be a Navy pilot really did come from God,” he said, “and that they were meant to be fulfilled—not as a pilot, but rather as a priest of Jesus Christ.”
Now 42 and a priest of 13 years, tomorrow, Dec. 12, Father Traynor will be installed as rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. As rector, he’ll be responsible for forming the “outstanding priests” he had once prayed God would raise up.
His response to that remarkable turn of events?
“Gratitude and joy,” he said. “I am grateful not just to be called to the work of priestly formation as rector, but to become rector of this particular seminary! St. John Vianney is a jewel in the Church, with its outstanding faculty and staff, and with the excellent and fruitful leadership of Msgr. (Michael) Glenn for the last 12 years, not to mention having its founding rector returned now as Archbishop (Samuel J. Aquila)—so many causes for gratitude!”
The third of three adopted children of John and Dona Traynor, Father Traynor grew up in Eagan, Minn. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn., a baccalaureate in sacred theology from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a licentiate of canon law from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Ordained to the priesthood for the Sioux Falls Diocese in 2000, he served as pastor of three parishes in South Dakota and as director of the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of South Dakota. From 2004-2007 he served as formator for seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and worked as a judge for the Marriage Tribunal of the Sioux Falls Diocese. Since his priestly ordination, he has been an instructor and director at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
A book he wrote about prayer, “The Parish as a School of Prayer: Foundations for the New Evangelization,” was published in February. Written at the request of the Institute for Priestly Formation, he was inspired by Blessed John Paul II’s remarks on prayer in the apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte” (“At the Beginning of the New Millennium”).
“It was written with priests in mind, but is accessible to anyone,” Father Traynor said about his book. “I’ve heard from many lay people who have read and enjoyed it and have been helped by it in simple ways to grow in their lives of prayer.”
Prayer is a topic Father Traynor often addresses as a retreat master and spiritual director. He also leads retreats on priestly identity and mission.
“If a man is called by God to priesthood, the love of God in him forms a specific vocational identity that is expressed in priestly mission,” he said. “In God’s love the man was born again in baptism to live Christ’s own beloved Sonship. In holy orders, the priest is configured to Christ the Head to live Christ’s own chaste spousal love, to live Christ’s own healing love, to live Christ’s own revelation of the Father, and to live Christ’s own servant love.”
He feels it’s a special blessing to be installed rector on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed to Juan Diego bearing Jesus in her womb, where the Father is knitting together the perfect humanity of his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “(She) is a great icon for the whole endeavor of priestly formation.”
He sees his new post as a “great adventure.”
“The Church needs well-formed, holy, knowledgeable and generous priests,” he said. “I want to give myself fully, with humility, joy and trust to SJV’s mission to form such priests.”