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?
After graduating from college, I took a teaching job at Jonas Clarke Middle School in Lexington, MA. From a young age, I desired I to become a teacher. I wanted to help children recognize their potential and to teach them how to live well. While I absolutely loved teaching at Clarke, I began to realize that the best way to help people live well is to prepare them for eternal life by bringing them the sacraments. God showed me this very slowly. The more I prayed, volunteered at the parish, and attended mass, I began to desire to share my faith with everyone. I realized that in order to discern this call, this burning desire to share the love of Christ, I needed to enter the seminary.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
Several people influenced my decision to enter the seminary. Some of them include Father Wayne Belschner, Father James DiPerri my family, and my friends. Both Father Wayne and Father DiPerri provided an excellent witness for me. They are both joyful, prayerful, faithful, and manly priests. It is so clear that they love their priesthood and that they bring life to their people. They are examples of true fatherhood. When I watched them celebrate mass or interact with parishioners, I found myself wanting to be in their position. In other words, I wanted their joy, their simplicity, their holiness. Though I loved my job, I chose to leave it so that I could be closer to Jesus as His priest. My family, which consists of my Mom, my Dad, my sisters Bridget and Elle, and my brothers Derek Nolan, and Luke, also had a major influence on me. All of my siblings helped nurture me and encouraged me to pursue the priesthood. For example, my sister Elle was the first person I told about my desire to pursue the priesthood. My father supported me by providing a priestly example. He, as the head of the house, sacrificed for us, prayed for us, and provided for us. I remember being very young and seeing him rise early to pray for my mom and for all of us. This left a big impact on me. I pray that God will give me the grace to pray for my parishioners with the same fervor as he prays for us. My mother also had a major influence on my vocation. She taught me my prayers, exposed me to the catechism, to the rosary, and modeled for me humble service and sacrifice. I am so grateful for her beautiful witness. Finally, my friends encouraged me to pursue the priesthood. God blessed me with wonderful friends who take their faith seriously. Their witness, support, and encouragement made me excited 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?
Prayer is essential in the life of a seminarian. It is impossible to survive, let alone flourish, in the seminary without it. Prayer is what allows a seminarian to fall more in love with God and his vocation. Prayer allows one to know Jesus better and to discover His desire to use you to help save souls. Prayer and its importance cannot be stressed enough. As one grows in prayer, he grows in love of God and love of neighbor. It is beautiful to see how this happens in the seminary.
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
I would tell him to pray for the grace to be a priest. Also, I would tell him to stop making discerning God’s plan his full-time job. I made this mistake and it really confused me. In other words, I got so occupied with “discerning” that I made the process more about me than about God. Much like you discover if you are called to marry a specific woman by dating her and living in that relationship, you discover if God is calling you to be a priest by attending the seminary. There is no other way to do this. The Church, in her wisdom, helps you discover God’s call once you arrive to the seminary. You figure out the call to priesthood by making the process concrete and eventually attending the seminary. Before deciding to apply, spend fifteen minutes of daily mental prayer, attend confession at least once a month, and go to mass as frequently as your work schedule allows. If you make the commitment to do these things consistently for six months and you still feel drawn to the priesthood, apply to the seminary. It is as simple as that. If you pray and receive the sacraments consistently and God puts priesthood on your heart, there is a very good chance he desires that for your life. He is not out to trick you. God has given you the grace to take the next step. Trust him and just do it! I promise you will not regret it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
I enjoy that my “full-time job”, if you will, is to pray, grow in fraternity, grow in charity, and to fall more in love with God. When you live in an environment free from distractions, you receive a lot of grace from God to develop into a better man. These graces will pay off regardless if you get ordained. I have grown tremendously since I entered the seminary 2 years ago. I am much more prayerful and joyful than I was before. I also have an interior freedom I never found outside of the seminary. I am excited to see what God has in store for the next four years of my formation. I also love organizing the Saint John’s Seminary basketball team. We finished in third place in the national seminary tournament, which is played in Chicago. Before I came to the seminary, I was upset because I thought I would have to give up competitive sports forever. God had different plans. Though it seems strange, he has used my love of basketball to help foster fraternity and friendly competition at Saint John’s. This has been a great blessing for me and my brother seminarians.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
I think that we are our biggest obstacle. We forget that God is in charge of the whole process. We focus so much on our weaknesses, fears, doubts, and insecurities. We can convince ourselves that “we do not have what it takes to be a priest.” In reality, we must realize that God calls us because we are weak. No man is capable of being a priest on his own. God gives us the grace to “become fishers of men.” Peter told Jesus to depart from him because he was a sinner. In other words, Peter said, “Lord, I do not have what you are looking for. I am a pathetic sinner…” After hearing Peter’s request, Jesus lovingly looks at him and says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10) I love this encounter because it reminds us to stop doubting and to start trusting. If the Lord is calling you, he will give you everything you need to become the priest that sets the Archdiocese of Boston on fire with the love and mercy of God.
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 play and watch all sports. My favorite sports to play are basketball, soccer, baseball, football, and pond hockey. I also love to hike, to travel, and to ski. Many guys in the seminary enjoy the same activities. I enjoy doing these things with them.
What do you think is the best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston?
The best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood is to pray for families and to have joyful, holy, and strong priests in parishes. Priests need to live in such a way that draws people to Jesus. A holy priest encourages people to live for Christ. This helps foster faithful families which in turn will support vocations.