Only eight months ago I wrote an article for the Catholic Courier about World Youth Day in Sydney. At the time I was preparing to begin my formal period of discernment for the diocesan priesthood at Becket Hall in Rochester. As I write this article, those eight months of formal discernment have drawn to a close. During Holy Week, Peter Van Lieshout and I were given the thrilling and humbling news that we had been accepted as seminarians for the Diocese of Rochester and will be continuing our studies for priesthood in Rome this fall.
But the question is, what happened in those eight months? How did I go from a “discerner” to a seminarian?
After completing my bachelor’s degree at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, I decided to take the next step in order to see whether God was, in fact, calling me to priesthood. Through the Becket Hall program, the Diocese of Rochester offers college graduates an opportunity to focus their prayer and attention on their own vocation for the period of one academic year. By offering a program of prayer, spiritual formation, regular reception of the Sacraments, parish ministry, study and communal life, the Becket Hall program encourages young men to look carefully at their own lives and discern what it is that God is calling them to — whether priesthood or something else.
The Becket Hall program revolves around the process of vocational discernment. Discernment, in this sense, ought to be understood as being true “catholic” discernment; a process which tries to take into account a young man’s whole, entire personhood. That is, the discernment process is not only a personal, private one, but also one in which the church community plays an active role. This twofold discernment helps the young man to identify the gifts, talents, faults and weaknesses that the Lord has given him. In an atmosphere saturated by prayer and supported by a firm reliance on the holy Eucharist and other sacraments, Becket Hall can be an occasion for this genuine Catholic discernment, which can lead to a much clearer picture of how Jesus Christ is asking these young men to follow Him.
Before coming to Becket Hall myself, I went through a certain period of discernment in college. Early on, the idea of priesthood was intriguing but distant. Later, I felt a “tug,” an attraction toward it, but I fought it off, preferring my own vision of my future. After much prayer and conversation with those I loved, I began to look at the possibility of priesthood with new eyes, and decided to commit myself to taking the next step. I talked to Father Tim Horan and Carol Dady at the Vocational Awareness Office, and started a more formal conversation.
My own experience at Becket Hall has only strengthened my conviction that Jesus is calling me to be a diocesan priest for this diocese: I have begun to draw great strength from the rhythm formed by the Liturgy of the Hours and daily Mass. I’ve found great joy in studying Catholic theology, philosophy and spirituality. Through my work and ministry at St. Margaret Mary Church in Irondequoit, I’ve met scores of devoted Catholics whose faith has inspired my own, and who have encouraged me even more toward priesthood. I’ve been able to meet priests from around the diocese, and would be pleased to serve the people of God alongside them. And while I’ve also come to recognize the profound challenges that priesthood will offer in the years to come, I’m convinced that they can all be met with Christ at our side.
While prayers are absolutely necessary for vocations, never underestimate the power of a word of encouragement. If you know a young man that you think would be a good priest, let him know! Your encouragement might be the sign from the Holy Spirit that he was waiting for. And, if not, it will certainly move him to deeper discernment of his own vocation.
So if you are a young man who has already said “yes” to following Christ in your own life, consider if God might be calling you to priesthood. If you’ve met Christ, you know how much the world needs his presence. Maybe God is calling you to bring Jesus to the world in the ways that only a priest can.
Greg Rupik is a seminarian for the Diocese of Rochester. He will be continuing his priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome in the fall, and will be studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.