The more I reflect on it, the more I realize I had a pretty idyllic childhood.
I grew up in a loving Catholic family in a suburban neighborhood just on the city lines of Baltimore, surrounded by a Christian community of over fifty families who spread themselves throughout eight of the same neighborhood blocks. I was surrounded by a community of friends and families who wanted to share the joy of the Lord and the joy of fellowship with one another.
I went to an inter-denominational Christian school, which stressed a personal relationship with Christ, the importance of Scripture, and the importance of being a witness. I grew up going to Mass every Sunday, praying before meals, singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” around the Advent wreath, attending the Passion play at the local monastery, and spending the hours between noon and three on Good Friday in silence. We attended prayer meetings, picnics, camping trips, festivals, pool block parties, and talent shows.
Though faith was important to me and Sunday Mass was imperative (originally much to my dismay), it was not yet personal. In the fourth grade, however, I had a profound experience of Jesus’ love for me during an impromptu praise and worship session in Bible class led by my teacher. Though I grew up Catholic, I had little idea of what “being Catholic” meant. In discussions with non-Catholics in my school, I realized I needed to know what I believed and why. Those discussions began a journey of searching for the truth in Catholicism and falling in love with the Faith. The more I learned, the more I loved, and the more I loved, the more I wanted to share Jesus and his Church with others.
I entered an all boys’ Jesuit high school with the desire to share my faith with others. It was there that I had my first opportunity to go to daily Mass and make frequent stops to the Eucharistic adoration chapel down the street. My love for Jesus in the Eucharist grew tremendously as did the desire to share my faith.
I went on a mission trip to Jamaica after my freshman year—and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to teach the Faith, so I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville to obtain a degree in theology and catechetics. While at Franciscan, I went to Jamaica two more times, to New Mexico, and finally to Belize. It was in Belize that I decided to volunteer at the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) mission after college.
I ended up teaching for three years. It was in teaching those kids and seeing the hope that Jesus offered them that I found the fullness of life. It was in those kids receiving the Sacraments that my life made more sense. God began to invite me to be a spiritual father and to give my life so that others could receive the Sacraments.
Now in SOLT, and at Sacred Heart with my fellow seminarians, I live in communities that share much of the same familial spirit as the community in which I grew up.