Seminarians for the Diocese of Camden spoke about vocations in several churches of the diocese on the weekend of Nov. 7-8. Following are excerpts of some of their talks.
“A youth group was formed at the parish where I had grown up. I began to be involved in youth group and … attended a youth retreat for the first time. It was on that retreat that a priest and seminarian gave their own stories of why they believed God had called them to the priesthood. As they spoke, I began to see that they were living joyful lives and that their lives had a great impact on others. I realized too that this was exactly what I wanted my life to be: a life full of joy that made a difference to others!”
“This is why I want to be a priest. I want to share God’s boundless love in the Sacraments: to bring souls to Christ and Christ to souls.
“In the seminary, men of widely varying backgrounds come together to respond to a universal call: the desire to love and to serve God by loving and serving his people as his priest. The result is a lot of learning, a lot of growth, and some real trials, but ultimately it has been a very special experience. I have found it to be a very supportive and nurturing environment.”
“I can assure you that there are many young men out there who are being called to the priesthood but either do not hear it because of the loudness of our society or they hear it but are afraid to act on it. … Pray for more seminarians for our diocese.”
“We need more men to answer this great call that God may be asking of them. Because without priests, we would not have the Bread of Life. Without priests, we would not have the sacrament of reconciliation, in which Jesus comes to forgive us of our sins. Without priests, we would have no one to bring Jesus to his people and his people back to himself, through the sacraments of His Church.”
“I wish to touch upon … the desire God placed in my heart for religious life. It is attractive to the deepest part of us all and this is why we are here. It is a thirst for holiness which only God can satisfy… I recall that beautiful hymn which states ‘It is I, Lord? For I will go Lord, if you lead me.’ I remember my heart burning with love for God in a holy and intimate way.”
“We … need help to land on our feet as competent and compassionate servants of our parishes or at the door of seminary or other courageous steps we might be called to; we need God’s grace.”
“Without prayer, we can do nothing. We need God’s constant outpouring of grace to help us make decisions both large and small. Visit the Lord in adoration, and ask him to clarify what he wants from you, and ask for the grace to fully desire his will in your heart. Be not afraid. Trust the Lord, and he will reward you abundantly.”
“Do not be afraid to say yes to the Lord! He knows what is best for us, more than any other person. He is our Father and will never ask too much of us to abandon us on our journey to him.”
“One of the biggest influences on entering the seminary for me was the example set by some of the priests I was close to. I was an altar server for several years so I was able to closely interact with some of the priests. Seeing the reverent and holy ways that they interacted with parishioners and celebrated the sacraments made me realize how happy they were, and I was inspired by all of the good things they were doing.”
“God takes the initiative, but in a subtle way. He doesn’t just come out in a thunder cloud and roar, ‘I want you to be a priest!’ He whispers in the silence of our hearts.”
“I remember the first time I ever felt the Lord calling me to something different and special. My younger sister was not feeling well at all from a really bad case of strep throat. So I ran downstairs and grabbed a popsicle, then ran upstairs and gave it to my sister. I remember how good it felt taking care of her, how much love I felt from that action. That is what love is, self-sacrifice. That comes from Christ.”
“When I entered the seminary five years ago, I felt like the widow we heard about in our first reading. I really didn’t have much to offer. I was extremely shy, nervous, and not really holy. I had never been an altar server and I really didn’t know too much theology. The only thing I knew was that there was something in my heart telling me I need to explore this vocation more. To be honest, I figured that I would do one year and be unhappy and then I could gracefully bow out and say I tried. However, after that first year, I found a new love for the Lord and for his church. I found out that you weren’t expected to be ready for ordination the very next day of entering the seminary; that the main point of all these years in the seminary was to build you into a good priest. …
“Five years ago, I never would have been able to come up here before everyone and talk to you about the seminary or my imperfections. But if we want to grow, we have to be honest with ourselves and each other. We have to recognize that the Lord is speaking to us, and that he calls us for who we are and the gifts that we have.
“If you feel the Lord is calling you to a vocation in our church, speak to someone about it. Don’t worry if you feel you are not holy enough, or if you are not the ‘right type’ of person for the priesthood. Listen to the words of the Prophet Elijah, which St. John Paul II also said, “Be not afraid.’”
“This is the path that I feel God is calling me to: a path that will help others to see the things that are illuminated by the Light of Christ in the midst of a dark and desperate world. It has been almost two and a half years since I first walked through the doors of the seminary… I have been privileged to be in the house with other men who are likewise discerning God’s call for them. These men come from different backgrounds, and yet, we are all united because we have accepted the invitation of the One we have come to believe in.”
Carlo Santa Teresa