I grew up with a ball in my hand. My father was a collegiate basketball coach and we moved twice in my early childhood as he took different coaching jobs. When I was 5-years-old we moved to Pennsylvania where my dad became a head coach for the first time. It was here in the rolling hills of the Laurel Mountains of western Pennsylvania that I was raised.
Growing up, it was my father and a junior high school teacher who inspired me the most. They could reach and connect with a whole group of people. Their virtuous lives and passion for what they were teaching, and coaching, inspired those around them, most of all me. This led to my desire to follow their example and become a coach and a teacher myself.
Like many of my peers, I grew up in a house that went to Mass on Sundays but didn’t have a deep, living relationship with God. My parents had us pray family rosaries, took us to first Friday Masses and other devotionals, but I always kept the things of the faith at an arm’s length. I remember telling God in high school, while having a bout of conscience over my sins, that I wanted this time to just live my life as I saw fit and that when I was older, married with kids, I would live a virtuous life.
I continued down this road of “living life as I saw fit” while keeping God in the periphery of my life. It was only making me more miserable and I could not understand why my life was so deeply unsatisfying. The summer after my freshman year of college, while working at a summer camp for my home diocese, the Lord intervened in a profound and life-altering way.
It was the Tuesday evening of camp and we were all gathered around the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and a guided meditation. The priest began by inviting us to imagine ourselves in a favorite place of ours and then to invite Jesus to meet us there. I pictured myself in my bedroom, sitting on my bed. I do not remember what the priest said after this because Jesus showed up, sat on my bed next to me, and started speaking to me in my heart! I remember Him asking why I was living the way I was living and that my sins hurt him. There was no condemnation in his questions or statements, just the deepest sense of how much He loved me. I remember praying, “Lord, I am so sorry. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” At that moment, in my mind’s eye, I saw myself vested as a priest, behind the altar, elevating the host at Mass during the consecration! I couldn’t believe it!
I spent the next four years discerning if this was what God wanted from me. During that time, I could sense the desires of my heart coming into alignment with God’s heart. I knew that not only was God calling me to become a priest but that I also desired to serve God and his people in this way. During this time, I also discerned a call to Franciscan religious life and to help with the founding of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, but that is a story for another time.
I count it all as joy to leave everything behind for our Lord and His Kingdom and am looking forward to becoming a priest this coming summer!