“A vocation comes from an encounter with God that changes your life”
By, Thomas Curry
As a young Catholic man, and someone who actively practiced my faith, I was eventually asked by some people: Are you going to be a priest? This question is an important one because it concerns what you will do with the rest of your life. In January, after a semester at Aquinas College, I transferred to St. John Vianney Seminary in Minnesota to begin formation for the priesthood. Every seminarian has their own story as to how they got here but I want to focus on my two visits to the seminary, my first being my senior year of high school and my second being my first semester in college after I discerned for the seminary.
My participation in the Vianney Visit began by dropping off my bags upon arrival then go to the chapel for Evening Prayer, a part of the Divine Office. The chapel was full and overflowed into the lobby. To see all these men, devoted to Christ and His Church, gave me hope for the future. I could not help but notice the demeanor of the seminarians. They were reverent and humble. Normal, yet unique. Fun-loving, but also prudent. The image I had of seminarians as socially awkward guy’s but the message was clear: they are not weird. After prayer and Mass, we had dinner, followed by the visitors all introducing themselves. After this, there are games and movies. The next day, there are opportunities to attend class with seminarians and have conferences with the priests at the seminary. On the evening of the second day of the visit, the dioceses go out to dinner at various locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (Grand Rapids has a tradition of going to Buca Di Beppo). On the way to the restaurant in our bus, we all spontaneously broke out singing “The Star Spangled Banner” (I don’t know why, we just did.) This dinner together as a diocese is perhaps one of the best times during the whole visit because there’s so much to discuss concerning the visit and what we liked about it. We bond during dinner and then head home the next day.
What I experienced during both of my visits is the holiness that resides there. The priests and seminarians are truly holy men and there is a great sense of peace. Yet I did not decide on my first visit to attend seminary. I did not hear a voice telling me to be a seminarian.
The Vianney Visit is meant to open up our minds to the prospect of going to the seminary, not to force a decision right then and there. To parents with sons, encourage them to attend this visit. Encourage them to be open to the will of God in possibly becoming a seminarian. The duty of parents is, in part, to help their sons on their vocational journey. Encouraging them to attend this visit is a great first step!
To the young man who may think seminary is not for him, just attend the visit. If you go and find that seminary might be for you, you will be happy for going. If you visit and decide it’s not for you, then you can have peace of mind. I know that if I did not go on a Vianney Visit, I would not be a seminarian. When I decided to attend seminary, I reflected upon my two visits which gave me peace as to where I was going to study and who I would be with. To quote Pope Francis, “Vocations aren’t the result of planning, but an encounter with God that changes your life.” One must take a first step to invite God so that encounter may take place. The Vianney Visit is a place where one can take that first step with brothers that are united with him, striving toward that goal of holiness, of which we are called to.