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?
Raised in the Anglican tradition I had always had a strong desire towards ministry. Professionally I worked in the funeral business for a number of years in the greater Boston area and had the opportunity to meet many wonderful priests and lay Catholics who unbeknownst to me were quietly and subtly encouraging my vocation. A great deal of my vocation was fostered by the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. It is he who I consider to be a great spiritual father in my discernment and it ultimately guided me along the way to be received into the church.
Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?
In terms of a vocation both as an Anglican and then as a Catholic I have been blessed to meet and work with many wonderful priests. Father Andrew Mead, former Rector of the Church of the Advent in Boston and later St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City was a great influence through this preaching and example. The Carmelite Fathers of the Northshore Mall in Peabody were who recieved me into the Church. They have been so supportive and generous with their prayers and guidance. Their example of priestly ministry knows no ends or limitations for the people of God. It is the Carmelites who in my conversion were able to help look more closely at my vocation. The Sons of Divine Providence of Don Orione in East Boston were the bed rock foundation of my first experience of the Church. Specifically Father Lawrence Tosatto who is truly a priests priest. He was the priest who first said to me "Maybe you will become priest someday". And since I have been in the seminary I owe a great debt to Father Ronald Tacelli, S.J. for helping to open my eyes and heart to the intellectual life of the church. He inspires one to want to go out share this gift with everyone.
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?
Without prayer we cannot be able to begin to understand what God is calling us to do. Be it communal or contemplative prayer, these opportunities provide us the time to immerse ourselves in the Word and to be able to more fully reflect and discern this calling. For me personally, I get a tremendous a food from our communal prayer here at the seminary. We are supported by our brothers in prayer and in song and psalm we raise our hearts for the people of God, the church and each other. It is truly a spiritual blessing.
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?
Quite simply....be active in your parish, pray, and avail yourself of the sacraments. The parish is the life blood of the church and that is where the most direct effect of the Holy Spirit is felt by the people of God. In service, ministry and the sacraments. Be open with a priest you trust and your confessor. Openness and spiritual transparency are key into understanding who you are and what God might be calling you to. You can only discern this call if you first know who you are.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
First and foremost I am thankful for the men of the house at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary. By example and kindness these men make this a wonderful house to live in. I consider myself blest to live with such fine men who come from a myriad of backgrounds, places and experiences. It greatly enhances the life of the house both spiritually and communally. Secondly, I great enjoy my classes. Most especially during my pre-theology year in studying Modern Philosophy with Fr. Tacelli and Doctrine with Msgr. Peter Conley. Being inclined to history, Church History with Dr. Orlando in my first theology year was excellent.
But more importantly, the ability to go out each week on our apostolate work is wonderful. As I said before, the parish is the life blood of the church. This is where the rubber hits the road in ministry. When one is able to look forward each week to this work, for me, that is when the Holy Spirit is most active in my life as a seminarian.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?
Acceptance. Change. Trust. These three. You have to accept the fact of what God is calling you to. You must be prepared for the changes in your life that you will meet. But meeting them with a joyful and generous heart makes it easier. And finally trust. Trust what God has in store for you in his great design. With all that he has given us, who are we not to trust?
What are some of your hobbies or pastimes? What are some of the things you like to do in your "free" time?
I am an avid reader. Although with all the academic reading one has for class, I don't get much time for reading of my choice but I love biographies, historical, political, and current event genre. Travel is another one of my pastimes. I am a regular visitor to the United Kingdom and enjoy Trans Atlantic crossings on ocean liners. Good, long, leisurely, meals with friends is always such and fun I enjoy cooking for a crowd. I also enjoy taking in concerts at Symphony and Jordan Hall. Long walks around the city and coffee with friends make for a good day off!
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 in the Archdiocese of Boston is the accessibility of the parish and campus priests. The identity of the priest and his accessibility are absolutely key. We must raise awareness of the priesthood by the unmistakable identity of the priest and pray regularly for vocations. Vocations in all forms including religious and married life. What level of awareness in the parish is there for vocations? Are vocations prayed for regularly? Holy Hour for Vocations? Accessibility of the priest and awareness through prayer are the ways in which we do this. It is simply not good enough to hope for vocations. We all must do our part and raise awareness in our local churches and ministries. These things beget the grace of discernment and vocations.
We also must never be fearful of where we are going as a church. We must be bold, confident, and trusting in God's plan. It is easy to become discouraged with declining church numbers and priests but what are we going to do about it? R. W. Emerson once said: "Fear looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up". Let us all have faith and do our part through prayer and awareness and example.