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?
Ever since I was very young, I considered the call to the holy priesthood. I attribute this to my family, who raised me Catholic, with a love for Holy Mother Church and all Her teachings. My mother in particular stressed that my siblings and I pray about our vocation, and that we be open to whatever God calls us to, whether that be the priesthood (for my brother and me), consecrated life, or holy matrimony. The reception of the sacraments was a regular part of our upbringing, as was the daily Rosary, which we prayed together as a family, typically in the evening. Discussing matters of the Catholic Faith and morals was always welcome in our home and amongst our greater family. At Providence College, God saw fit that I be exposed in my first semester to and then immersed for the rest of my years in the Theology and philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Church’s “Common Doctor.” Reading Aquinas provided me the facility to explain why I believe what I believe and to understand the reasoning for why the Church teaches as She does. After graduating, I participated in a couple of Catholic liturgical conferences, e.g., Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 in New York City. These conferences prompted my interest in learning more about the Sacred Liturgies of the Catholic Church. Thus I discovered the Traditional Latin Mass, which touched my heart and profoundly expanded my spiritual growth. Partaking in Ignatian retreats led by the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian in Allentown, New Jersey further aided in my development as a mature Catholic man. Through this retreat I met two of my closest friends today. These two Catholic friends, along with my Catholic friend from Nigeria who befriended me in graduate school at Providence College, and a couple others, were especially influential in my decision to enter the seminary. Having devoted, rooted Catholics in my life has been essential to my discernment of the priestly vocation.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
From within my own family, my parents first instilled in me a positive association with the holy priesthood by bringing me to Holy Mass while I was a mere infant, only a week out of the womb, and onward. There was never a time, nay, an option, for me or my younger siblings not to go to Mass. There still isn’t! My godmother Anne-Marie Bossé, who died in September of 2013, encouraged me often to think about the holy priesthood by speaking often about the beauty of this supernatural vocation and letting me know periodically that she was praying for me. Another lady in her fifties, Elizabeth Thomas, who became a dear friend of mine in the midst of her fight with terminal cancer, told me pointedly and repeatedly that I would make a good priest. She furthermore challenged me to take seriously the possibility that the holy priesthood was my calling. In my early youth, my associations with the priests of my parish were quite grandfatherly. This was indispensable to fostering in me a love for the priestly life. In my adolescent years, after many of those priests had died, I was blessed to be at Coyle and Cassidy High School wherein Father Kevin Cook, of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, was chaplain. Reverent and unabashedly Catholic, Father Cook was an exemplar of the young cleric who was able to speak with anyone, whether student, faculty, administrator, or parent. At this time, the retired priest Father Donald Clifford regularly offered Sunday Mass at my church of Saints Martha and Mary Parish and inspired me by his preaching, for he often spoke about the controversial issues many priests shy away from with fortitude, yet also with love and compassion for the faithful. During my college days, I commuted to and from Providence College, allowing me to continue my parish music ministry as organist throughout my higher education. Hence I came to befriend the parochial vicar of my parish, Father Mark Derrane, who led a reading of the major documents of the Second Vatican Council at my parish. This study of the Council documents was a turning point for me, as I began to scrutinize other recent and older Church documents, as well as be more observant of the rubrics and traditions of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Other priests of the Archdiocese of Boston who influenced me to enter the seminary include Father Thomas Bouton and Father Jason Worthley, priests devoted to Christ and His Church. In the immediate year preceding my entry to Saint John’s Seminary, Father Kwang Lee, who attended Saint John’s Seminary in the early 2010s, in his holy disposition and pious offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, further motivated me to apply to be a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Boston.
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?
If you are not praying each and every day for God to enlighten you about your vocation, then you are not serious about discerning your calling. This is a reality that I have to remind myself about often, since I can get caught up in my day-to-day activities and studies. In fact, when I was working before entering the seminary, I did not remember to pray every day to God with the specific intention that He show me the way that would bring me happiness in this life, in preparation for eternal happiness in the life to come. I recommend reading a spiritual classic or a good hagiography, preferably of a saintly priest or a consecrated person, that will invigorate you to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), like the persistent widow in Jesus’ parable (see Saint Luke 18:1-8).
What advice would you give to a man who is thinking about his vocation and is considering that God may be calling him to be a priest?
First, pray. Pray for your possible supernatural vocation to the holy priesthood. Go to our Savior’s Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to lead you to her Son according to the Will of God the Father. Second, receive the sacrament of Penance or Confession often, every two weeks at most, and the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass frequently if not daily. Third, read accounts of the lives of the saints and spiritual classics by the saints. Is such spiritual reading moving your heart to give yourself radically to Christ as a priest? Fourth, find a holy priest to aid you on your vocation to holiness, which remains regardless of receiving Holy Orders, consecrating yourself to God, or marrying. To determine whether to approach a priest for spiritual direction, focus closely on how he offers the Holy Mass. Is he routinely rushed? Does he preach orthodoxy and sound catechesis? Is he performing or is he praying the Mass? Outside the Mass, is he respectful, genuine, and interested in people’s lives and families? Though it is true that anyone, including priests, can put on a façade to hide inner turmoil, shallowness, or struggles, the way in which a priest prays the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a window to the priest’s very soul. Finally, speak with trusted family and practicing Catholic friends about your possible vocation. Ask them for their honest opinion and stay close to those who authentically practice the Catholic Faith and love Holy Mother the Church.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
At Saint John’s Seminary, I have become acquainted with many men who seriously are considering the life of the holy priesthood. Amongst these men I have made quite close friendships in a very short time, given that we spend our time together praying, studying, and eating. Those whom I am blessed to call true friends are young Catholic men who, while each unique and distinctive, are united in their love for Christ, His Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Holy Mother Church. Some of the holiest men I know are priests I have met since entering Saint John’s Seminary. Even within my parish pastoral assignments I have made long-lasting relationships from becoming acquainted with certain Catholics who are on fire with the Faith! I am so thankful to God for leading me to Saint John’s Seminary so that I could become a better person from these new friendships. Regarding these relationships, “The finest gold shall not purchase it, neither shall silver be weighed in exchange for it” (Job 28:15).
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
The scourge of innumerable kinds of unchastity and impurity are collectively the greatest challenge facing any man who is considering the seminary today. Especially in the Western world, the Catholic Church is in dire need of holy men to answer the call of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to become “alteri Christi,” other Christs. The enemies of Christ and His Church, Satan and his minions, know this and propagate curiosity, immodesty, lust, pornography, drunkenness, and debauchery. Indeed, in the modern world, contraception, divorce, and abortion are legal, and now sodomy and other sexual depravities have gained widespread acceptance. These temptations, in one form or another, present a person with some goods, namely, pleasure and companionship, but in a disordered way. Hence that which is sought in sexual vices (e.g., pleasure and companionship) is not in itself evil, but the means of achieving such goods is wrong and sinful. Such pleasures are especially alluring to men, but we can take solace in the words of Saint Paul: “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
What are some of your hobbies or pastimes? What are some of the things you like to do in your “free” time?
Before I entered the seminary, I was an organist for three Catholic parishes in southeastern Massachusetts. During my breaks and holidays away from Saint John’s Seminary, I often have returned to parishes with whom I have a relationship and play the organ for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. But I am not limited to playing sacred music. Working on a challenging transcription of a classical work such as a string quartet for organ or recreating a film soundtrack on the organ is laborious but worth every moment of time and concentration. I also keep in contact with my dear friends as best I can, which often means taking time out of my schedule to go for a walk with a friend or to speak over the phone with an out-of-state friend. When a difficult theological issue stumps me, I plumb the works of the saints, especially Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the documents of Holy Mother Church for an answer. This research aids me in becoming a better apologist for the Catholic Faith, growing in knowledge and wisdom, which I thoroughly enjoy. While I partake in the occasional movie, especially from the Hays Code era (1934-1968), I am becoming aware of the much greater value derived from private prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and spiritual reading. Some other interests I have include cooking, hiking, and embarking on pilgrimages.
What do you think is the best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston?
The answer is twofold: we need holy priests and holy families. A lukewarm priest, never mind a bad priest, will not attract vocations to the priesthood. In order to foster vocations to the holy priesthood, the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston must be true vessels of the Holy Spirit, through close attention to the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Office, the saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary and her spouse, Saint Joseph, as well as our patron, Saint Patrick, the great proselytizer of Ireland, and Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist. Just as importantly, Catholic families actively must promote the supernatural vocations of the priesthood and consecrated religious life. To accomplish this, the Catholic family together worships God in the Holy Mass at least weekly and on all holy days of obligation and prays together, most especially the Holy Rosary. Catholic images, such as crucifixes and paintings of Holy Mary should abound in the Catholic household, making clear that Christ the King reigns in this home. Visiting or inviting over holy priests and non-cloistered religious men and women is a further way of encouraging children to consider these lives that are united so closely to Christ and His Spouse, Holy Mother the Church.