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 sjvrm.org.
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.