My first thoughts of becoming a priest occurred in middle school. I had been altar serving for a couple of years and had felt a tremendous draw toward the Mass. Not only the mechanics of the Mass but why we did what we did at Mass. My associate pastor invited me to a vocations dinner and that’s when it clicked–the priesthood could apply to me, not just to some other guy but to me! From the time I left that vocations dinner until now, the idea of becoming a priest has never left my mind.
By the time I reached my junior year in high school I thought I had my life figured out. I was going to practice medicine and conduct research and would eventually start a family of my own. I had, (at least I thought), dismissed the call to the priesthood altogether and put this “tug of war” to rest. I moved to college with the idea of still faithfully attending Mass but not being as involved in parish life. I was trying to focus more on my career than on church. The first week was a success but by the end of the first semester I was more involved in Catholic campus ministry then I was previously in parish life. This opened the door once again to the idea of priesthood.
After graduation I began working as a medical transporter at a local hospital. One day a team of transporters, including myself, moved a patient into a pre-op bay in the OR for emergency surgery. As I left the patient’s bedside she grabbed my wrist and expressed her need to see a Catholic priest before surgery. It was nearly midnight and we were unable to locate a priest. The woman was faced with having to go under without seeing a priest or delaying the operation and compromising her own life. I offered to pray with her and was able to get her into the OR. I still don’t know what or how I said what I did but the Holy Spirit worked through me that day.
Fast forward a couple of years to a gas station on the opposite side of town from the hospital. I was standing at a pump when a man, who had been staring in my direction for a while, walked up to me. He was the grandson of the woman whom I prayed with before surgery. I was in complete shock! As we continued our conversation he proceeded to share that he came back to the Catholic Church after witnessing this exchange with his grandmother and it brought his parents back to the faith the following year.
I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy as I stood in that gas station parking lot. I had shut the door on God’s call many times over the years but this time he took the hinges off and removed the door completely. I was looking through an open doorframe and he and I both knew it. That fall I began taking classes part time at the seminary while completing the application process. As I move through my second year at Sacred Heart, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of contentment as I continue to discern God’s call alongside some truly remarkable brother seminarians, priests, and faculty. I can think of no better place or way to discern God’s call and I can’t wait to see what he does in and through me in the years to come.