As a third-grader, the Rev. Joe Dillinger had three careers in mind.
"A vocations director came to our classroom," said Dillinger, a native of Sioux City. "I told him I wanted to be a priest, a firefighter or a fighter pilot."
How, exactly, he concocted this combination Dillinger is not sure.
But by the time he was in high school, Dillinger took his first steps toward becoming a priest.
As a sophomore, Dillinger left Sioux City to enter St. Henry Preparatory Seminary in Belleville, Ill.
Though once common, the high school seminary has fallen out of favor, Dillinger said.
"The thought was that you're not mature enough," he said.
Indeed, Dillinger did not proceed directly to the priesthood.
"I worked at Pizza Hut for awhile," he said.
While he enjoyed being a cook, the job didn't give him the satisfaction he was looking for, Dillinger said.
The call of the profession he identified in grade school continued to beckon.
And so, Dillinger became "Father Joe" in 1996 after completing his seminary training.
Since then, Dillinger has served various parishes in the Diocese of Sioux City.
On July 2, he began serving Holy Trinity Parish in Webster County.
Prior to his arrival in Webster County, Dillinger was assigned to various parishes in Carroll County, where he lived for 13 years.
Part of a team of three priests, Dillinger rotates between the parish's five worship sites, including Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart in Fort Dodge, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Moorland, Christ the King in Dayton and St. Matthew in Clare.
As he rotates between sites during his first weeks, Dillinger and parishioners have gathered for punch and cookies after masses, as a means to get acquainted.
Dillinger said he is looking forward to getting to know his new home.
He said he hopes to encourage members of the parish to get involved.
That, he said, was a key factor in what led him to the clergy.
"It wasn't that my family was overly religious," said Dillinger, who grew up with two brothers and two sisters.
But though they might not have been inclined to pray the Rosary every day, Dillinger's parents readily volunteered for parish work, he said.
As a priest, Dillinger devotes much of his time to supporting parishioners through saying masses conducting weddings and funerals and visiting the sick, as well as daily prayer.
However, providing spiritual strength is very much a two-way street, Dillinger said.
"People in our parishes nurture our vocation by praying for us," Dillinger said. "They're the ones who know us the best."