Every year when it’s time for the seminarians to return to their studies and we prepare materials for the Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations, I think back to my beginning days in the seminary. At that time, there was no St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward. Instead, we rode together in a van pulling a U-haul behind us, making our way to Toronto, Ontario to study at the Oratory of St. Phillip. I remember the first night very well, sitting on my bed in my new room wondering if I had made the right decision.
Making the decision to enter the seminary is not taken lightly by any young man considering his vocation. After serving as vocation director for the diocese for 16 years, I can assure this is true. For myself, I remember as a young boy having an attraction to the priesthood. And there was no secret as to why: we were served in our parish by a good, holy priest who was also a close family friend. I remember pretending to offer Mass at home in our living room. It all seemed to be so attractive as I knew our parish priest was loved by everyone.
But that would all change. That attraction waned during high school and by the time I entered college, it seemed to have left. I remained active in my faith during college, spending a great deal of time at the Newman Center. I met several young men who were studying for the priesthood and still felt that wasn’t the direction God had planned for me. I dated and that was sure fun. I started working at a great job while I was in college which would offer me a life-long career that I thought would be enjoyable. But in the end, that external call had not really left. I was simply trying to repress it for some reason: fear.
When I read about the prophets and their response to God’s calling to them, I can fully relate. I used those lines: ‘I am too young. I won’t know what to say. You must be thinking of someone else. This is just too big of a leap for me to take.’ Especially since life seemed pretty secure at that point. I was in my early 20s and had a really good job, a new car, and a great girlfriend. I was ready to move forward. But the question that haunted me was, ‘What if?’ What if I am really being called by God to be a priest?
I finally realized that it would actually be wrong for me to just move forward and ignore this call that had persisted.
I thank God that I said yes. He has most certainly not disappointed. In fact he has given me so many graces that I often just feel overwhelmed by His love. When I realize that the young men who are entering the seminary today are wrestling with many of these same struggles that I encountered, I am also grateful to the good and faithful people of the Diocese of Lincoln who made it so much easier for me to answer that call.
For many years now, the Diocese of Lincoln has had a policy of assisting young men who are trying to discern the call to the priesthood by paying for their tuition, room, and board. What a blessing! I cannot imagine what my own discernment would have been like if I had this additional burden to consider. That pressure was lifted by so many wonderful people who believed in the importance of supporting seminarians so that there would be priests to serve in the diocese for years to come. I am grateful that this love for the priesthood was present then and is just as present now. Thank you in advance for your support of the Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations.