Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit MI
I grew up the oldest of two kids in South Portland, Maine. St. John the Evangelist was our home parish in South Portland and the Brothers of Christian Instruction chapel in Alfred was “camp church” in the summer. It was at the Brothers’ during the summer before my freshman year in high school that my faith first became real to me. I was at Mass with my family and Fr. Ted was preaching about how the Eucharist was the literal flesh and blood of Jesus. Having missed this in CCD, at first I thought Fr. Ted was joking. When I realized he wasn’t, I remember looking over at the tabernacle, setting aside my doubts for a split second and all of a sudden being overwhelmed by this intense, burning joy that seemed to radiate from the tabernacle. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening, but something supernatural was in that tabernacle and it filled me with joy the likes of which I’d never known before. I wanted to know more.
After that experience, I went into Cheverus looking to know more about this mysterious God who was physically present in the chapel two floors below. I started getting involved in service, hashed argument after argument out with my theology teachers and started spending regular time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Day after day that joy I first experienced at the Brothers’ chapel kept drawing me back to Him. Eventually, I realized I wanted nothing else than to give my life whole and entire to serving Christ who was the source of this amazing love and joy. I began to wonder if Christ was calling me to the priesthood.
After high school, I attended Fordham University and the adventure only continued to deepen. Saying yes to Christ brought me to places I never dreamed I’d go. I coached swimming at an inner city public school, spent my Friday nights at a homeless shelter in the South Bronx, got involved with the pro-life movement, made a pilgrimage to Calcutta to work with the Missionaries of Charity, entered the Society of Jesus, ran retreats for a year, taught high school religion in Yonkers, and all the while fell more deeply in love with Christ and came to know Him better.
A nun once told me that God doesn’t only call us to certain ministries but to minister to certain communities. By the end of college, I’d concluded that Christ was calling me to be a missionary, and yet when I got down to the particulars of learning Spanish and leaving the US, there was no joy. The joy was in Maine, caring for people I knew, in a language stood, in a culture I was a part of. It seemed Christ was calling me back home to the diocese of Portland.
If I could give one piece of advice to men discerning a vocation it would be this: don’t be afraid. Mother Teresa once said that we may not always know where God is calling us, but wherever it is there is bound to be great joy. Just follow that deep burning joy; the rest will follow.
a) Hobbies – swimming, biking, hiking, playing the piano,
b) Favorite authors – C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Joseph Ratzinger,
c) Favorite movies – For Greater Glory, Calvary, anything Monty Python
d) Favorite music – Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Matt Maher,
e) Favorite sports teams – Sacred Heart High School, Yonkers, NY (the school where I taught), Roosevelt High school swim team and Coastal Maine Aquatics (the teams I coached)
f) Favorite foods – meat and potatoes
g) Favorite Bible passage - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Therefore, that I might not become too elated,[c] a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times[d] I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, 9 [e]but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,[f] in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. 10 Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.[g]
h) Favorite churches –Monastery of the Precious Blood (Portland), Monastery of Our Lady of Montserrat (Spain), Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Jerusalem), Missionaries of Charity Motherhouse (Calcutta, India), Fordham University Church (Bronx, NY), Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Bronx, NY),
i) Favorite saints – Mother Teresa, S.G. Marcel Van, Ven. Mother Catherine Aurelia, St. Andre Bessette, the North American Martyrs (i.e. Brebeuf and companions), St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Padre Pio,