Where are you attending college seminary?
I'm currently studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. I've really enjoyed my time at St. Charles so far and hope to spend many more years here.
How does the typical college experience compare to life in college seminary?
Life in a college seminary is definitely more structured than at a regular college. We wake up every day by 6:30 and have morning prayer and Mass at 7:00. Our day then continues on a more normal schedule attending classes. We have free time in the afternoon to hangout, play sports, or take naps, but that comes to an end at 5:30, when we have to be in the chapel for evening prayer. The rest of the night we spend doing work, watching TV, or just relaxing. "Lights out" is at 11:00, but by then most of us are tired and ready to go to bed anyways knowing we have to be up early the next morning.
How long were you discerning the priesthood prior to attending college seminary?
Since I was a little kid, I always saw the priesthood as a real possibility. I was an altar server in middle school and high school and assisted in faith formation classes, but I never took the discernment process seriously until I got to Elon. November of my freshmen year at Elon, I began taking the discernment process more seriously, by talking to the Vocations Director for the Raleigh Diocese and attending discernment group meetings.
Did you find Elon an apt, accommodating environment in which to discern the priesthood?
In all honesty, it is pretty hard to discern in a college environment like Elon. Just finding time to go to the little Chapel that we have next to the Newman Center was hard. I tried to attend Mass frequently, but my schedule made it nearly impossible to get to Wednesday Night Catholic. That being said, Elon made me realize that I missed going to daily Mass and being involved in my parish and that without those things in my life, I wouldn't be completely happy.
What, if any, were the reservations and anxieties you had in regard to attending college seminary at such a young and pivotal age?
One thing about coming to a seminary is you do give up a lot of the freedoms and experiences that most college students have. You are also limited into the chances you have to interact with people of different faiths and beliefs, which is important for anyone to be able to do these days.
How important, in your opinion, is one's environment in discerning their vocation?
It's very important to be in a good environment during the discernment process. God calls one to the priesthood and if our lives are filled with too many distractions, how can we expect to hear that call? If we're not praying or attending mass regularly, it's difficult to figure out what God wants us to do with our life.
What were the reactions of those close to you when you decided to transfer to college seminary from Elon?
My family was, and still is, very excited about me going into the seminary. It was a little tougher at Elon though, because I had made some very good friends in my hall and on the Ultimate Frisbee team. While they were very supportive of my decision to transfer, it was a little tougher saying good-bye to them. Luckily, I'm still able to come back and see them and play a little Ultimate.
Why did you decide to study to become a diocesan priest opposed to joining an order, such as the Jesuits or Franciscans?
The pastor of my home parish, Msgr. Williams, played a huge role in my discernment process. Seeing the kindness and love he showed for everyone in our parish was very inspiring. I've also lived in the Diocese of Raleigh my entire life, and I felt called to give back to the Church that had done so much for me. I also just really love North Carolina.
What are some of the challenges you foresee for a diocesan priest in America today?
The Catholic Church has many teachings that a lot of people, both Catholic and non-catholic, do not agree with. Expressing these teachings without turning people away from the Church will be a challenge for every priest. There will also be a challenge replacing all of the older priests. There simply aren't as many seminarians as there used to be and doing the same work with fewer men will be difficult.
What aspects of the diocesan priesthood are most appealing to you, or what are you looking forward to the most?
The priesthood is really a vocation of service and I can't wait to do that. I'm really looking forward to being involved with parishes and being with the people.
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