What are some of the factors that led to your decision to enter the seminary and discern the question of a vocation to the priesthood?
I grew up in a large, extended Irish/German family. From the very beginning of my life the Catholic religion was a central focus. As a family we went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day and frequented the sacraments, and we learned our prayers and said them regularly. In many ways the faith was the glue of our lives and we were expected to live life so as to please God. I grew up as a regular American kid-- I went to public school, I played sports, hung out with my friends and dated a few girls. Through everything the Catholic religion that played a focal role all through my life was always my foremost compass. I always found my Catholic faith to be life giving and a refuge for me. I didn’t have to look far to discover who it was that laid this foundation in our lives. It was our priests. These priests preached to us on Sunday, celebrated the sacraments for us and were there when we needed them. We looked to them for who they were, “Fathers,” and I always knew that they had the keys to get us to Heaven. From a very young age I felt drawn and called to do what they did. As I discerned the reality of going into the seminary and becoming a priest, it was with great joy I could see myself in the person of a priest and doing what a priest does. When I encountered that joy, it was a joy that I had never felt before and it was joy that stayed with me. I knew that the drawing and calling I had felt was real and I had to go forward to pursue the vocation of priesthood.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
As kids we always looked up to the older generation in our family. My great grandparents and grandparents were in many ways the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family. I saw how they lived very good and wholesome lives with considerable success, they made it obvious that their Catholic faith was very important in their lives. As a youngster I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. They taught me how to pray and passed onto me their devotion. When we love someone we imitate what they do and I watched my grandparents look to the priests and the sacraments to guide the course of their lives. Somewhere along the way at a very young age, in a mystical way the seed of a vocation to the priesthood was planted and nourished inside of me. That seed sprouted and as a young man, it led me to enter the seminary.
What would you say is the role of prayer in the life of a seminarian and what effect does it have on one's ability to see God's call?
When I began my discernment for priesthood many priests told me that their whole lives would be a failure if they did not make prayer the central and most important part of their lives, and it they made a point to say that it begins in the seminary. That is the truth! Discernment of a vocation is not one dimensional; it has many dimensions, and it is a journey. As we discern our vocation, we are like the Gospel story of St. Peter and the other disciples. We find ourselves in a terrible storm but the Lord comes to us, and as the storm rages he asks us to come to meet him on the water and to hold onto him. From there he gently and yet powerfully reveals himself to us and we know more clearly, more deeply, and always more joyfully the vocation God is calling us to. If God is calling you to do the vocation of priesthood the only way you will know is by praying to him, and praying to him always. Some practical ways to have and nurture a prayer life are attending daily Mass and regular confession, praying the rosary, reading the lives of the saints and spending quality in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
What advice would you give to a man who thinking about his vocation and is considering that God may be calling him to be a priest
Discernment is seeking to know God’s will for you and while you seek you come to know yourself better. The priesthood, like any other vocation has both joys and challenges and both will be unique to each person. Do not be afraid! God has given the authorities of his Church the grace to discover with you if God is calling you to prepare to be his priest.
My advice would be, go and explore! See what God says to you as you look around. At Ordination, two lifelong promises are made, to be celibate and obedient to the bishop. A good starting block in discernment could be examining these two promises. If you believe you are called to be a diocesan priest, your bishop could assign you to be a priest to any number of different ministries. Here in the Archdiocese of Boston we have many wonderful parishes and collaborative. The Boston metropolitan area has one of the largest populations of young people in the United States and we have over one hundred different ethnic communities.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
I simply love preparing to be a priest. By God’s will and grace, I will be ordained a priest and that means I will be a Father to his people and as I serve them it will be my job to take them to Heaven. That for me is the best part of being a seminarian!
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
I think one of the greatest challenges is the relativistic world around us. The priesthood is a lifelong commitment of uncompromised dedicated service to God and his Church. Preparing for priesthood, in many ways, is of the same nature. It is important to remember that the Lord asks us to give him everything and he will return it a thousand fold.
What are some of your hobbies or pastimes? What are some of the things you like to do in your "free" time?
I love to learn about other cultures. I play lacrosse. I like to read and watch movies. I like to hang out with my family and friends.
What do you think is the best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston?
The Church of Boston is vibrant and alive. We need good priests for all the many peoples that we have. The Archdiocese of Boston is very rich in diversity with many unique and extraordinary blends of parishes and collaborative, and socio-economic and ethnic groups. We need good priests to come forward to serve the people of God and to inspire by example as did the priests I knew growing up did for me.