Owego native eyes priesthood - Catholic Courier

Owego native eyes priesthood

Daniel White’s journey toward a religious vocation may well have begun before he could walk — yet it took him a quarter-century to make that connection.

 A family friend, Pat Jones, often took him as an infant to weekday Mass at St. Patrick Church in Owego.

"She would pray that someday I might become a priest," he said.

Growing up, he attended Sunday Mass regularly with his family and was involved in the parish youth group, but there was no strong signal a vocation was in the offing.

"I hadn’t ever thought about it except briefly, and dismissed it almost immediately," he recalled.

Three years ago, while taking medical graduate studies in Erie, Pa., he began frequenting daily Mass and a perpetual-adoration chapel. He prayed that he would do well on his exams but was frustrated that help didn’t seem to be surfacing.

"Finally, I asked the Lord, ‘What do you want me to do?’ That was a question I had never asked before," he said.

The answer made him realize that "there was nothing wrong with being in medical school, but it wasn’t what God had chosen for me."

That was the pivotal point in his now being known as Brother Daniel of St. Therese, OCD. He assumed that title this past Feb. 2 by making his first profession of vows for the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Western Province in a ceremony at Mount St. Joseph Carmelite Monastery in San Jose, Calif.

Brother Daniel, 28, graduated from Owego Free Academy and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Buffalo in 2007. He then attended Binghamton University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he was enrolled when the vocational call became louder. Though this realization was initially disconcerting, "I knew that I couldn’t be honest with myself unless I pursued this," he said.

From there, Brother Daniel withdrew his medical-school applications and attended Franciscan University at Steubenville, Ohio, in 2009-10, taking mostly philosophy and pre-theology classes. He gravitated steadily toward the Discalced Carmelites based on his attachment to the contemplative life established by the order’s founders, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, in 16th-century Spain.

"Our charism is prayer, first and foremost. Then it’s teaching others to pray and helping others to pray, teaching the spiritual life," he said, explaining that the order’s priests spread Discalced Carmelite spirituality by giving retreats and working in parishes.

"We also have a strong commitment to the missions," he added.

He has lived in community at the San Jose monastery since September 2010, engaging in intensive discernment, study and formation first as a postulant and then as a novice prior to his first vows. He hopes to begin attending Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon later this year; after four years there he would take solemn profession of vows followed by a one-year diaconate and finally his priestly ordination.

Remarking on how friends and family have reacted to his vocational pursuits, "I think most people were very surprised, at least initially — well, I was very surprised initially," laughed Brother Daniel, the son of Larry and Debra White. "But people have been very, very supportive no matter how surprised they were. After a couple of minutes they were like, ‘OK, this makes sense.’"

He said one person who didn’t express surprise was Pat Jones, who still resides in Owego and is seeing her prayers for his priestly vocation closer to being realized. Brother Daniel credits her and many other folks from Tioga County’s Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes and the Diocese of Rochester for having helped influence his vocational journey.

"Even though it was after I had left town that I became aware of this calling, certainly that was the fruit of seeds that were planted while I was in (the Diocese of) Rochester," he said.

He admitted that the deep soul-searching that goes with his preparation for the priesthood is not always easy: "Living this life that has been designed to bring you into confrontation with yourself, everything out into the open, having your own faults revealed to you — that can be a painful process."

But overall, Brother Daniel is reveling in the steadily growing certainty that he’s doing God’s will.

"The peace and the deeper sort of joy, knowing that you are in the place where God wants you at this particular moment — that’s a privilege that most people don’t have," he said.

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