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 was in education, teaching Theology to high school and middle school students at Catholic Memorial School. I loved teaching and thought for a long time that it was my calling in life. I was able to share the Word of God and teaching of Christ with students every day. Eventually, however, I felt that I was called in another direction. Initially I was not sure if I was just feeling I needed to grow or truly being called to a change, but over time the call became stronger and I had to confront it. Through much prayer and guidance from family, friends, and my pastor Fr. Chris Hickey, I concluded that God was calling me to discern a vocation to the priesthood. I went on a vocation retreat weekend and was able to spend the weekend fully open to whatever God desired of my life. I was affirmed in my desire to enter the seminary, and with the help of Fr. Hennessey applied to St. John's.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
My mother and father have been examples of living a life of faith and obedience for me. They have always put their trust in God and have raised me to do the same. They have always encouraged me to be open to what God was calling me to do, but never pushed me one way or the other. The example they provided allowed me to be open to God's call.
When I was growing up several priests had a profound impact on my life and impressed upon me that a priest is a teacher, and a spiritual father to many people. I looked up to men like Fr. Arthur Calter, Fr. Leo Pollard, SJ, and Fr. John Tokaz, and was inspired by how happy they were in living their vocations.
Fr. Chris Hickey was the man who asked me at age 34 if I had ever considered the priesthood as my vocation. When I told him yes, he facilitated me going on the retreat to discern, and guided me through the transition from life as a teacher and coach to one as a seminarian.
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 central in the life of a seminarian. I believe it is central to the life of anyone who desires to know God's call no matter what that may be. Prayer is how we open up to God, submit to His will, and allow Him to show us what will fulfill us and lead us to be our best selves. Every life includes challenges and difficulties, and prayer is necessary in overcoming that. Daily Mass, confession, and prayer have been vital to my discernment.
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?
Pray. In prayer be sure to be silent and to listen. I often would pray and either be distracted or be constantly voicing my concerns or praises without taking the time in contemplation to allow myself to be moved by the Holy Spirit. When I was able to be still and open, my path was made clear.
Asking for and listening to the advice of those closest to you is important as well, but ultimately the decision to answer the call is yours alone and only you can understand it and respond to it. Prayer is the most important method of discernment.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
My life consists of growing in knowledge of the faith, prayer and spending time with like minded people who both encourage and challenge me. It is a life designed for one to grow in the faith.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
I entered the seminary at age 34, and so some of the challenges were different than a younger man. I was teaching and coaching and was in love with my job. I had bills to pay and an established routine. Also, I was accustomed to making decisions for myself, including when to eat, when to go to Mass, when to pray. I knew that I would have to give up the career I loved and submit myself to formation if I was going to follow God's call, and so I felt I had to be sure that this was God's will for me. Eventually I had to have faith in what I felt was right, and have the courage to trust God. Leaving what I knew to be good to pursue what I thought to be better took me letting go of control. That was challenging, but incredibly rewarding. When I finally made my decision I felt a great sense of relief, not anxiety.
What are some of your hobbies or pastimes? What are some of the things you like to do in your "free" time?
I love athletics. Any sport will do. We play softball, ultimate frisbee, soccer and flag football when the weather permits it. There is a gym in the building for exercise in the winter months.
I also have begun to read more. Being in a house full of men discerning I have found many books that help a seminarian in that discernment.
I also enjoy attending hockey and football games.
What are some of your favorite authors/books/movies?
I will read anything by C.S. Lewis. I have enjoyed reading several of Cardinal Dolan's books. I like all kinds of movies. Comedy would be my favorite genre but I'm not picky, if it's good it's good.
What do you think is the best way to encourage vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston?
Make sure men understand that it is possible that they are being called. Finding ways to make sure men are open to the call, or to facilitate times for them to discern or ask questions about discernment is critical. The Archdiocese of Boston has several programs and opportunities for this, and I would continue to support and grow those programs.