The Road to the Seminary


By Todd Smith

When we reach adulthood, we choose careers to support ourselves and our loved ones.  Whether we become doctors, teachers, or maintenance workers, all vocations are essential to our personal development and to the enrichment of society.

The path to the priesthood, however, is quite different, primarily because the future priest does not choose the vocation — he is called by God.  Much like Christ called his 12 apostles, each seminarian is inwardly summoned by God to serve as a minister of the people and as mediator between God and man.

Each seminarian’s vocational calling is different.  Michael Pitio, a seminarian at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary (RM), felt called to the priesthood at an early age.  He chose RM because he felt that his vocation was to be a missionary priest.

Trevor Lontine, a seminarian at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary, recently shared that he entered a seminary immediately after high school, where he remained for two years, before he decided to leave and attend college.  It was during his college years assisting in ministry work when he heard the call to return to the seminary.  He was filled with joy knowing that our Lord was calling him back.  And this time, it’s going very well for Trevor, who is even more confident in his vocation.

Within the Church, there are numerous religious orders.  Typically, a religious order will focus on a specific apostolate, like teaching, education, health care or missionary work.  Diocesan priests, on the other hand, focus primarily on parish work.  With many vocational options available, each seminarian is encouraged to research and pray to determine where he feels God is calling him.

We are blessed to reside within a diocese that offers spiritual discernment retreats where men focus on their vocational calling.  If a potential seminarian determines that he is being called to serve as a diocesan priest, he will meet with the Director of Priestly Vocations on a regular basis before starting the application process.  He then undergoes a rigorous psychological screening and a background check.  Once accepted into the seminary and before participating in ministry work, he must complete the Safe Environment training program.

When appointed as the Director of Priestly Vocations, Father Ryan O’Neill told the Denver Catholic, “To be a real man is to come to the realization that your life is not about you.  Men want to make a difference in the world, but you can’t leave a mark if you aren’t committed to something. There’s no fruitfulness without commitment.”

All of us are called to a life of prayer and service to one another.  Seminarians are no different.  At St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, all students enroll in the Spirituality Year Program to cultivate a deeper communion with Christ through intense prayer, Eucharistic adoration, retreats, studies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scripture, and spiritual classics.  During the Spirituality Year, they also engage in various corporal and spiritual works of mercy — visiting the elderly, teaching youth, or ministering to the sick — as an opportunity to serve others and grow closer to the heart of Christ.

During the second year, they will advance in their academic studies and spiritual formation.  On average, each seminarian will invest seven years in preparation for the priesthood.

When asked what he is most looking forward to after his ordination to the priesthood in May 2020, Adrian Hernandez, a transitional deacon at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, replied, “I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of story God is going to write with me.  As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, ‘I am just a simple pencil in God’s hand.’  He is the writer, I’m just the pencil.”

To contribute to the missions of St. John Vianney and Redemptoris Mater in forming our future priests, donate to the Annual Seminaries’ Appeal today at

If you or someone you know feels God’s inward calling to be a priest, please contact Father Ryan O’Neill, Director of Priestly Vocations at 303-282-3429.

COMING UP: Late-term abortion ban reaches signature goal

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Late-term abortion ban reaches signature goal

Volunteers gathered nearly 50,000 signatures for Initiative 120 within two-week cure period

Aaron Lambert

In a final push, supporters of the initiative seeking to prohibit abortions after 22 weeks in the state of Colorado have gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

During a two-week cure period granted after falling short of required signatures to get Initiative 120 on the ballot, over 400 volunteers worked diligently and collected over 48,000 signatures by May 28, nearly three times the amount sought during the cure period. The Due Date Too Late campaign spearheaded the charge to gather signatures with support from Catholic Charities’ Respect Life Office and other pro-life communities across the state.

“I am overjoyed to hear that so many Coloradans have signed the petition to successfully place Initiative 120 on the November ballot,” said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, who expressed his support for the initiative early on. “Protecting children in the womb is an essential part of building a society that treats all life, no matter its age or ability, as sacred. God has given each person a dignity that comes from being made in his image and likeness, and the degree to which our laws reflect that will be the degree to which we experience true freedom and happiness.”

Initiative 120 would prohibit abortion in Colorado after 22 weeks, with an exception for the life of the mother. According to a recent Gallup poll, 74% of Americans believe that there should be limitations on late term abortion. Due Date Too Late submitted the bulk of the needed petition signatures in March but fell short 10,000 signatures after review by the Secretary of State. The cure period began on May 15, with Due Date Too Late needing to collect those 10,000 additional verified signatures of registered Colorado voters during the 15-day cure period to meet the 124,632 threshold and qualify for the November ballot.

“We are thrilled to take this next step towards protecting lives in Colorado by exceeding our goal of signatures we are turning into the Secretary of State,” said Lauren Castillo, spokesperson for the Due Date Too Late campaign. “We are thankful to have this opportunity to work together with communities across the entire state of Colorado. The hundreds of volunteers we have who are so passionate about ending late-term abortion are helping to make this a reality.”

Due Date Too Late will be turning in the notarized packets containing almost 50,000 signatures on May 29 at 2 p.m. to the office of the Secretary of State to assure that the ballot initiative will meet the statutory threshold.

The field collection effort by Due Date Too Late went forward amid a recent executive order by Gov. Jared Polis regarding how petition signatures may be collected. Under Gov. Polis’ order, he declared that ballot initiatives could gather signatures electronically in response to the coronavirus pandemic; however, Initiative 120 was the only ballot initiative that wasn’t allowed to collect signatures electronically because it was in a cure period.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated over 30,000 signatures were being turned in, based on the information that was available at the time of publication. The actual number is closer to 50,000. The story has been updated to reflect this fact.