Jubilee 2016 Ordinations to the Priesthood in DC (largest class in 45 years)
Next Vocation Weekend at the Dominican House of Studies
– Brendan from VA, studied at Brown University (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Augustine
I was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia in a close and supportive family. My three younger sisters and I spent much of our youth swimming, exploring the woods, or visiting our many cousins. My family was committed to attending Mass each Sunday, usually with the Jesuit Fathers at Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Georgetown University. My first memories of an interest in the Mass and the priesthood come from that chapel.
However, as I grew older, I treated the idea of a vocation as more of a youthful daydream. At sixteen I went to boarding school in New Hampshire, and then enrolled at Brown University, majoring in history and classics. After graduating, I entered a career in teaching history and Latin at a variety of private college prep schools in Florida, Connecticut, and Virginia. While in graduate school at Columbia University, I first connected with the Dominican Friars from the Polish Province who served as the chaplains there. Their thoughtful and learned preaching helped me understand in my faith even more. During these years God led me into a deeper understanding of my faith, and the experience of His mercy through the Sacrament of Confession. Nonetheless, I spent much of my young adulthood as only a peripheral Catholic.
In my early thirties I started turning my life in a direction that would allow me to follow Jesus more directly. With the help of the invaluable guidance of Fr. Rich Dyer (Arlington Diocese), I became more active in my parish and sought out spiritual direction. During a silent retreat, the call of a priesthood returned. For the first time in my adult life I took it seriously. As it persisted, I reached out to several vocation directors, and reconnected with an old friend, Fr. Gabriel Torretta O.P. I visited him several times at the Dominican House of Studies, and soon found myself attending a Come and See Weekend. The more I learned about the Dominicans, the more I felt that this was my unique calling from God.
My discernment has been a wonderful time of study and prayer. Everything I have read about the Dominican charism and Dominican saints confirmed that I was heading in the right direction. Furthermore, I have seen great friars in action at St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, DC. But most importantly, I spent hours of prayer at the tabernacle and many weeks of reflection while on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. More than anything else, this time of prayer has given me the confidence to enter the novitiate.
Please pray for my brothers and me as we embark on our journey.
– Matthew from PA, studied at Yale University and The University of Maryland (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Faustina Kowalska
Born in Alabama, most of my childhood was spent in the Northeast, and from the age of nine I lived in Newtown, Pennsylvania, which I consider my hometown. I have two younger sisters, and we were raised Catholic. Initially I attended public elementary school, but from 4th through 8th grade I attended the local Catholic school. In 8th grade I was privileged to have a great and inspiring teacher, who suggested the priesthood to me, but at the time this seemed like a distant concern.
I attended a private secular high school and while I never fell away from my practice of the Catholic faith I didn’t do much growing in it either. I continued my studies at Yale University, where I attended the St Thomas More Catholic Chapel, and also came across the Dominicans for the first time at St Mary’s in New Haven, though I didn’t get to know any of them personally. I was invited to attend a Rosary group, which jump started my spiritual life. The thought of religious life briefly came up, but I ended up deciding to continue my studies in physics and applied to graduate school.
I pursued my doctoral degree in physics at The University of Maryland. I attended the graduate student Bible study at the Catholic Student Center each year, which was led by a seminarian each year, including the first two Dominicans I met, Bro. Dominic Bump O.P. the first year and then Bro. Justin Brophy O.P. the year after (both now priests). While impressed with their dedication to our Lord and His Church, at the time I was just starting my graduate studies and thinking I would be a physics professor some day, with a family of my own, similar to the happy one I had grown up in.
In the final years of my graduate studies, I had decided against continuing in academia and figured I would go into industry. Around this time I was reintroduced to the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, and again the idea of religious life, specifically in the Dominican order, arose. Encouraged by my 8th grade teacher, I got in touch with the Dominicans, and came to the Dominican House of Studies for a vocation weekend. I also started attending the Why Faith? series on campus, led first by Bros. Bonaventure Chapman OP and Joachim Kenny O.P., and then by Bros. Hyacinth Grubb O.P. and Norbert Keliher O.P. After much prayer and further visits with the Dominicans, I felt that Jesus’ call of “Come, follow me” in my case lead to the Dominican novitiate. I ask your prayers for me, my fellow novices, and our families as we seek to follow Christ’s will for our lives.
– John from OH, studied at Yale University (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Albert the Great
I grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, the second of three children. Both my parents are devout Catholics and made sacrifices to bring us up in the faith and ensure that we attended Catholic institutions through college. Around the age of 10, I become more and more convinced that the Lord was calling me to the religious life as a priest. I did not share this information with anyone, but I trusted in the Lord and accepted in my heart that this would come to be if it is His will.
During high school and college, I remained a devout, practicing Catholic and always kept in my heart the intention to answer God’s call. At the same time, I was drawn to the profession of physician. In many ways, the same elements that attracted me to being a physician – the role as healer, teacher, and scholar – also have attracted me to the priesthood.
While in medical school at Yale, I had a strong desire to intensify my spiritual life and devote more attention to discernment of a religious vocation. I became active in the St. Mary’s Young Adult Group led by Fr. Hugh Vincent Dyer OP, and also served as a lector and extraordinary minister of holy communion. Fr. Bernard Confer O.P.’s homilies fascinated me, and oftentimes I would take notes and even read some of the references he mentioned. A formative step for me was joining the St. Mary’s Chapter of the Lay Dominicans, who encouraged me to think about how I could apply Dominican spirituality to my everyday life, including professional activities. I also benefitted from the advice and guidance of Fr. Peter John Cameron OP and Fr. Nicanor Austriaco O.P.
My medical training continued as I remained in New Haven for primary care residency and chief residency. My love for Jesus has impelled me to work consistently hard and in different ways to strive to produce much fruit for my patients, my colleagues, and society. It has led me to sometimes take tough stances, to not back down in the face of injustice, but also to always work towards reconciliation. The sacrament of Reconciliation in particular has taught me to trust in the healing power of forgiveness. I feel that I can see Christ most near in those who are dying, and so I have taken a particular interest in end-of-life care in both my clinical and research activities.
After many years, the time has come for me to choose this higher calling and to join the Dominicans. I see the role of priest as an extension of the role of physician, one focusing on the immortal soul and the other on the mortal body. I realize, moreover, that priestly powers are actually beyond compare to medical powers, in that through God’s grace priests regularly participate in the miracle of the Sacraments, with remedies that can transform the soul and lead the faithful into Eternal Life. Medical advancements, however impressive, have transient benefits, being unable to address the ultimate reality of death.
With a humbled heart and much hope in the promise of Salvation, I ask you to pray for all the Dominican community.
– Michael from MA, studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Therese of Lisieux
I was born and raised in Newton, MA, which is right outside of Boston. I am the oldest of three children. I graduated from Catholic Memorial High School in 2004 and then went on to Franciscan University of Steubenville where I received B.A in Catechetics and Theology in 2008. In 2011, after three years of youth and college ministry, the Archdiocese of Boston sponsored me to be a seminarian. I have attended St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, MA for the past 5 years.
In considering how I discovered that God was calling me to the Order of Preachers, it seems easiest to begin with the two theologians that have had the most influence on me. Both Pope Benedict XVI and John Henry Cardinal Newman were instrumental because it was clear that their study of theology drew them continuously into closer union with God. As a result of their deep pondering of God, much fruit was born and therefore must always be shared. For Cardinal Newman, this was manifested through his motto on his coat of arms: ‘Cor Ad Cor Loquitur’ which was central to the life of the oratory that he founded. Reading and studying these two men deeply impacted my approach to this call to the priesthood.
So it was to my surprise when I was told by a friend of mine, that Dominicans ‘share the fruits of their contemplation.’ This may sound cliché, but it’s true, this phrase stopped me in my tracks and I recall that I trembled when I heard it. This expression compelled me to search deeper, since I had very little knowledge of the Dominicans. I was given William Hinnebusch’s Dominican Spirituality: Principles & Practice and to read this book was the most astonishing of all. Here was a book that explained the heart of a Dominican and it was as if I was reading my own heart. I knew then that I had to say “Yes” to this new path. The peace of Christ, from that day to this has been a steady stream drawing me along to a deeper union with Christ.
To encounter Dominicans with this new frame of reference was so important in grounding me in this gift of a Dominican vocation. I have had the blessing to be taught by Fr. Romanus Cessario O.P and Fr. Cajetan Cuddy O.P, while attending St. John’s Seminary. They taught me the language of St. Thomas which I was in desperate need of, and they were a tremendous example of one who truly contemplates the Word and ponders the truths of the faith. This contemplation has transformed their hearts and it bears fruit in their teaching and preaching.
Please pray for my brothers and me as we begin our novitiate year, that by imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary as she contemplated the Word in her womb, we may grow in union with Christ Our Lord. Pray that we’re faithful to the grace that flows from the gift of our vocation.
– Corey from OH, studied at University of Cincinnati (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: Pope St. John Paul II
I call home the “Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches.” I grew up in St. Henry, OH as the oldest of three children—the fruit of German-American descent on both the Knapke and Wenning sides of the family. I graduated from St. Henry High School in 2007 and chose from there to pursue engineering and business studies at the University of Cincinnati, where I would earn my B.S. and M.B.A. in 2012. Cincinnati quickly became a second home for me, where, for five years, God’s Divine Providence guided me through a number of experiences which would be pivotal in my vocational discernment.
As I began at U.C. I already had my “Ten Year Plan,” which included both the start of a successful career and—hopefully—a family. By God’s grace, I never excluded my faith from any of this planning—I had been blessed by good friends in high school who really kept me anchored in the Catholic faith in which my parents raised me. Nevertheless, I was the one calling the shots and I think I just expected God to ratify or approve of them. Well, this entire approach was, we’ll say, “revised” beginning in 2010—and I’m convinced Our Lady had a lot to do with it. The two biggest moments occurred during my five-month engineering Praktikum while working in Munich, Germany in 2011. Both were after praying a Rosary. One of those was along the Inn River as I biked from Pope Benedict XVI’s hometown to the pilgrimage town of Altӧtting; a faint Voice demanded my attention. Little of this made sense at the time. It was like a gentle coaxing which became clearer only later. By the end of 2011, though, I knew that God wanted me to consider becoming a religious priest.
My “formal” discernment journey began in the fall of 2012 when I entered formation with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.), who have shepherded my home parish for decades. I would remain with them for a little over two years before discerning that God was calling me elsewhere. What I gained in those two years was an insatiable thirst for truth, a passion for scholarship and pedagogy, a love of the Church’s liturgy (especially the Hours), a great longing for fraternal life rooted in the Eucharist and common prayer, and a real desire to bring souls to Jesus Christ. You can maybe see where this is going? Well, when I was a U.C. student, a very good friend of mine had always told me good things about the “Dominicans at St. Gertrude.” In 2014, I finally attended Mass at St. Gertrude’s with him and his parents. I was stunned and deeply moved to see so many novices! I decided to investigate, and soon fell in love with St. Dominic and the Order’s foundations. And I found, much to my surprise, that this order’s foci were on those things I felt increasingly passionate about in my own personal calling! I began conversations with Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P. and made several visits to priories through the summer and fall, ending with a discernment retreat weekend in October. By December, I knew God was calling me to seriously consider this life. Deep inner resonance and a great peace would describe what I’ve felt before the Blessed Sacrament in discerning this call. I praise God for His great gifts. I join with my future brothers in asking for your prayers as we discern and are formed. I hope that our joy in these days of deeper communion with Christ may become your joy as well.
– Micah from TN, studied at Vanderbilt University (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saints: All of them.
I was born in Homewood, Alabama and raised in White House, TN. I have a loving mother and father and five brothers. I was raised in the Church of Christ. In college at Vanderbilt, I met Deacon Dillon Barker and Father John Sims Baker which began my conversion to the Catholic Church. I was confirmed in 2010, my junior year of college. Around this time, I began discerning the priesthood. I worked for two years in Kansas City and continued my discernment. In the Spring of 2013, I decided to begin applying to seminary.
My Seminary career began in the Summer of 2013. I began my first year of Pre-Theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH. I greatly enjoyed my classes in philosophy. During this time, I also grew in prayer and knowledge of the faith. During my first summer as a seminarian, I was assigned to Totus Tuus. I greatly enjoyed teaching the faith. It was also around this time that I met some of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN. Then, upon returning to the Josephinum, I had my first course with a Dominican priest, Fr. Reginald Lynch O.P. This experience combined with further prayer, allowed me to see some of the formal differences between the religious life and the diocesan life. Then, during the next semester, I had an introductory moral theology class with Fr. Cassian Derbes O.P. Both of these experiences opened the question of religious life for me.
After these experiences, I began praying about what these differences meant for me on a personal level. After a time, I began seriously pursuing the possibility of applying to the Eastern province. Through this entire experience I have been graced with wise counsel, sincere intercession, and wonderful fraternity. As I continued in my line of questioning, it slowly became clear that for further answers, I must take practical steps. So I began applying to the province. At the end of my 2nd semester of 1st Theology, I found out I had been accepted. I am excited at the reality of entering the order in its jubilee year. I humbly ask for the intercession of St. Dominic, St. Thomas, St. Rose, and all Dominican saints.
– Zachary from RI, studied at Providence College (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Peter of Verona
I was born in Westerly, Rhode Island where my mother and father instilled strong Catholic values in me at a very young age. While I attended the local public school I was very active in my parish life, frequently participating in a youth group run by Fr. Raymund Suriani who grew to be a spiritual mentor for me.
Studying at Providence College, I had my first taste of Dominican spirituality. Being immersed in the pursuit of both truths and the Truth helped to develop in my an even greater love for study and a deeper relationship with Christ. Seeing and meeting friars like Fr. James Cuddy O.P., Fr. Dominic Legge O.P. and Fr. Tom Ertle O.P. in their capacities as pastoral ministers helped foster in me a desire to service. Learning under friars like Fr. Nicanor Austriaco O.P., Fr. Mark Nowell O.P. and Fr. Gabriel Pivarnik O.P. helped me to view the beautiful intellectual tradition that is so rich in the Dominican Order, and to really see myself walking it. At Providence College, I found a blend of love and learning, service and sacraments, caring and Christ that I had been desperately longing to live.
After Providence, I decided to spend three years as a teacher, both to experience life independently and to deepen my spiritual life and human virtue before pursuing religious life. I spent these years teaching at a school in Wisconsin called Saint Joseph Catholic Academy. It was there that I established myself teaching science to middle and high schoolers. My students taught me patience and compassion, while my coworkers helped me to model authentic spiritual leadership and self sacrifice.
As I began my third year in Wisconsin, I began to take the call God had placed in my heart much more seriously. I reached out to the Fr. Benedict Croell O.P. and Fr. Nicanor in the Province of St. Joseph and began the process of applying. Visiting the Dominican houses in Washington D.C., Dartmouth and New Haven CT, I only grew more certain that God was calling me to a deeper union with him.
I have only God to thank for the blessings of my life, especially this call to the Dominican life. I ask that you pray for my brothers and me who are entering the novitiate, that in this period of formation we may all be brought swiftly to a deeper relationship with Christ.
– Tyler from TX, studied at Kansas State University and the University of Dallas (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saints: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Chrysostom
I am the third of five children to my parents Robert and Sandra Dubek. My father having been in the Air Force, I was raised all over the country, though we never lived outside the continental U.S. Wherever we were, my parents made sure that we were integrated into the life of the local parish through religious education and, when my twin brother and I were old enough, altar serving, as well as other ways to be formed and to serve. My mother tells me that until the end of third grade, when we were moving away from a Catholic parochial school, I had adamantly wanted to become a priest; however, when I learned we would not be going to a Catholic school anymore, I was crushed and never mentioned the desire again for twelve years. In college, at St. Isidore’s in Manhattan, KS, I fell in love with the Sacraments and with grace. I prayed for generosity of heart when challenged to pray about my vocation, and I found that my growing desire for holiness was becoming inseparable from a desire for the priesthood. Following that desire, I entered seminary with the Diocese of Fort Worth.
It was in seminary that I first came into contact with the Dominicans of the St. Joseph Province. I had always known about the Dominicans, having attended an elementary school in Hampton, VA, operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville). While in seminary, I went to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life. While riding the Metro I met Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress O.P., and even months afterward, I could not take the Dominicans and the possibility of that vocation off my mind: like before, I was discovering that my desire for holiness was becoming inseparable from a particular vocation; this time, a Dominican vocation.
When I went on a vocation weekend, a lecture by Fr. Romanus Cessario O.P., was very encouraging to me, profoundly affecting my prayer and my approach to the question of discernment. This lesson about the grace of St. Dominic, as well as my ever deepening love for the Dominican tradition of authentic Thomism, captivated my intellect and will: the life and work of St. Dominic and his friars, to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls, called me. Please pray for me and my brothers in formation, that, through the hands of the Blessed Virgin, we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
– Mark from PA, studied at Duquesne University (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Thomas Aquinas
Raised in Grove City, Pennsylvania as the first of five children, I am blessed with a loving and supportive family. Since childhood, I recall a decisive attraction to and appreciation for the priesthood. For my part, I often ignored these thoughts or dismissed them altogether. During my adolescent years, however, this attraction was fostered time and again by my family and parish community. After graduation, I entered the diocesan seminary in order to discern a vocation to the priesthood.
My years at the seminary were undoubtedly formative. I learned to live in rhythm with the Church calendar; I enjoyed the fraternal character of community life; I worked diligently on my studies in philosophy. Nevertheless, I remained unconvinced that my attraction to the priesthood was one and the same with a vocation to the sacerdotal ministry. As a result, I left seminary formation and began my lone, significant dating relationship shortly thereafter. While I considered the prospect of marriage, I could not help but notice that thoughts of the priesthood returned with a renewed vigor and expression. Still, I remained obstinate to such ideas, dismissing them on account of past discernment. Following college graduation in 2013, I accepted a position as a Theology teacher at a nearby diocesan high school in addition to a role in youth ministry at my home parish. Thinking of a possible career in academia, I also began professional studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.
Providentially, I was introduced to Opus Angelorum, and became a member of the association in 2014. Through my involvement in the OA, I was ever more aware of my love for the priesthood and truly, my love for Jesus Christ, our “great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14). At first, I prayed for priests according to the directives of the OA, and I assisted my parish priest in pastoral matters. As time wore on, however, I could no longer ignore the intensity of my attraction; suffice to say, I desired to be a priest in union with Jesus Christ. Upon reaching this conclusion, I ended my longtime relationship and began an extensive process of discernment. From the start, I was drawn to the Order of Preachers. As my students can attest, I am particularly devoted to St. Thomas Aquinas (both for his writings and his life of heroic virtue) and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom I owe so much. Above all else, I admired the tireless example of our Holy Father St. Dominic, who guides us in the contemplation of Jesus Christ by way of the school of Mary.
Please pray for me and my brothers that, through the intercession of St. Dominic and Our Lady of the Rosary, we may discern the vocation which God, in His Mercy, has deigned to bless us.
– Nicholas from IN, studied at Indiana University (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Ambrose of Milan
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, I grew up in Carmel, Indiana after my parents moved back to the state since my father had obtained a job at a hospital in Indianapolis. There I was raised the oldest of six children in a Catholic family, attending the K-8 parochial school followed by the local Catholic high school. Interested at an early age in the priesthood and at the encouragement of my mother I began praying the breviary near the beginning of middle school. Not long after that, the death of St. John Paul II and subsequent election of Benedict XVI came at a time when I very much wondered and worried whether what I believed could be defended. These events moved me to look into their writings, from which I found not merely the movement of deep minds and a zeal for the faith, but unexpectedly also I found an honest curiosity and a cautious disputation with discordant opinions: even those blithely ideological ones laid down by the modern world.
While in Libertyville, Illinois on retreat with a small group of high school friends, a specific moment engendered a general interest in religious life. We had headed up to a Marian pilgrimage center as part of a total consecration movement to the Blessed Mother called the Militia Immaculata, founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe. Early in the morning I had descended into the beautiful chapel for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. While looking on, I saw a Franciscan friar moving quietly from candle to candle, lighting them in preparation for Mass. This further narrowed into an interest in the Dominicans when while scavenging for books in my grandfather’s basement I discovered a commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas on Aristotle, and after coming into contact with Fr. Thomas Joseph White O.P. He generously answered questions I had about what I was reading in St. Thomas’s works and suggested other things to read.
I enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington, and moved by St. Thomas’s writings and some members of the faculty there I changed my major from biochemistry to philosophy. At St. Paul’s, the Newman center for Indiana University, I met Bro. (now Fr.) Patrick Hyde O.P., who was then a student brother spending his pastoral year assisting with Hoosier Catholic Students. An enthusiastic Latinist, in addition to helping me with Latin and the many great things he did for all of us at the Newman Center, he encouraged me to further discern a call with the Dominicans. Fr. Thomas Joseph put me in contact with Fr. Benedict Croell O.P., and then in February 2013 I attended a Come and See weekend in Washington D.C. Despite being exhausted during much of it, the experience in DC confirmed all the more that I should pursue a Dominican vocation. I got to know St. Joseph’s Province better through other visits to St. Patrick’s in Columbus, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Vincent Ferrer in New York City, and an annual philosophical conference Fr. Thomas Joseph would arrange in Newburgh, New York.
In Fall 2014 I spent a semester in an exchange program at the University of Bologna in Italy, where St. Dominic is buried, and where I met several friends who encouraged me to pursue a Dominican vocation. Among these was Fr. Giuseppe Barzaghi O.P., who taught at the Dominican studium there in Bologna. Fr. Barzaghi helped me with my thesis and gave me access to the Dominican library. He, along with Fr. Thomas Joseph and Br. Patrick Hyde in particular, encompassed an honest search for and contemplation of truth accompanied by their fervor in handing on that truth as a means for the salvation of souls. I could see this in their generosity with me and with others, and in some way I know I want to emulate this in my own life.
After graduating from Indiana University in May 2015 with a B.A. in Philosophy, a love for Italian language and culture, the writings of St. Thomas, and my interest in the Dominicans brought me to Rome to study in the Ph.L. program at the Angelicum. Before departing, however, I decided to make my application into the Order. I am, of course, indebted to our Blessed Mother for her guidance throughout my life and am more than ever in continued need of her prayers supplicating for Christ’s grace. Please pray for me and all of my new brothers.
– Tyler from OH, studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville (clerical brother candidate)
Fr. Benedict : “Tyler has raised $50K to offset his academic loans. CLICK HERE to see how he was able to do it through the generosity of many people and the Laboure Society. If you have academic loans, it is still possible to enter religious life!”
inspirational saints: St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Louis Marie de Montfort
I am from a rural town in Ohio, and grew up in a “Cradle Catholic” family. That said, as a teenager my interests revolved around science and technology; Mass and anything to do with religion was boring to me, and I didn’t really practice the Faith. I had a desire to discover “the truth,” but I didn’t see religion as helpful in my quest to find it. However, this desire for truth led me, in my sophomore year of high school, to realize I was living a bit of a double life, and I said to myself, “I can’t keep calling myself ‘Catholic’ while not going to Mass; I’m being a hypocrite, and to live as a hypocrite is to live contrary to truth. I have to either stop referring to myself as ‘Catholic,’ or start going to Mass every Sunday.” Thanks be to God, I chose Mass, and that’s where things started to change.
I started getting involved in liturgical ministries, and loved altar serving. My parish priest, among others, encouraged me that God may be calling me to be a priest. After much pondering and prayer, I applied and became a seminarian of my home diocese right after high school in order to seriously consider the possibility of being called to the priesthood. My discernment time in the diocesan seminary was very blessed, and I loved learning the truths that gushed forth in my philosophy and theology classes. I was especially captivated by the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas, glowing with the light of clarity and truth, and I found a great respect for the Dominican Order.
It was while at diocesan seminary that religious life became a real option for me; before then I had never considered it. As soon as a started to believe God was inviting me to live a life of vowed poverty, chastity, and obedience, I jumped at the opportunity! I desired to offer myself completely to God, and I didn’t want to hold anything back. At first, I was drawn to the cloistered contemplative orders, admiring how they totally gave themselves to the liturgy and the contemplation of God. I spent some time visiting contemplative orders, but there was something missing, something that I was avoiding. With contemplative life at the core, I started to realize that God was also calling me to go forth and to preach to others that which I had contemplated. However, preaching can be somewhat scary.
In spite of my fears, I visited the Dominicans several times. I was a bit afraid at the prospect of becoming a Dominican—what if I wasn’t a good preacher, or what if I said something that even pushed someone away from Christ? Wouldn’t it be easier just to abide in the safety of a cloistered monastery? While on a come-and-see visit, I met with Fr. Jacob Restrick O.P., who greatly helped me to move beyond these fears, to give up trying to control my life, and to trust in God. At the end of that come-and-see weekend, I made a powerful hour in Eucharistic Adoration in the middle of the night, where it was as if God said to me, “Tyler, you just have to trust Me. Do not depend on your own strength, but on My strength.” That moment I heard the Lord inviting me to join the Dominicans, and I am thrilled, by God’s grace, to enter formation to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls!
With thanksgiving to God, I have been accepted by the Dominicans to join the 2016 novitiate class. The journey up to this point has been so grace-filled: praised be the Lord who gives far more than we could ever ask or imagine! Asking Our Lady’s intercession, please pray for me and for all these men I hope to have as brothers in novitiate!
– Mark from TX, studied at The University of Texas at Austin (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. Josemaría Escrivá
Born and raised in Midland, Texas, the middle of three children, I was raised in a deeply Catholic family. Growing up, my younger brother and I, altar served often and spent time in religious education and in various other activities around the parish. It was a joyful time being nurtured by a vibrant and dynamic family and community. As I grew older through the late grade school and early middle school years I began to love sports deeply and sought to play as many as I could as many young boys do.
Unfortunately, my high school years were characterized by a double life. I still had this nagging search for God and was still attending Sunday Mass with my family yet I wasn’t receiving any catechesis. On the other side of the story I was partying frequently with my football friends and indulging in a life of debauchery. Interestingly enough, I still believed that I first received the call to the priesthood during my freshman year of high school and hesitantly discerned through my senior year whether or not to apply to be a seminarian for my home diocese of San Angelo, Texas. As a result of a lack of stability in my life stemming from my inadequate formation as a young Catholic man and prodigal lifestyle I decided not to apply to become a seminarian and soon began school at the University of Texas at Austin.
The transition to UT wasn’t exactly the smoothest and I soon found myself wondering what I was doing with my life. I was having trouble excelling in my engineering courses and I still had the lingering thought that maybe God was still calling me to the priesthood all the while trying to understand where I would form community. After getting more involved in the campus Catholic ministry my junior year I met a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary who invited me on a mission trip to El Salvador that next Spring Break and it changed everything. I was instilled with a renewed vigor and determination to follow Christ more closely and this brought back the call to the priesthood. It was on this trip as well that I was introduced to the Dominicans from a young man who was entering the novitiate that summer for the Province of St. Joseph. Soon after that trip I began discerning the priesthood and religious life as a Dominican with this same province soon after meeting Fr. James Brent O.P. on a retreat organized by FOCUS.
Before I knew it I was at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. truly enamored with the charism of the order. I was discovering that the life of a friar preacher was everything I had desired; to preach ”Jesus Christ and him crucified” for the salvation of souls. The brothers display of true fraternal love that was so obviously a reflection and a pouring out of the love they had for Jesus. The authentic and heroic masculinity that I saw was very attractive and I knew the Lord was speaking to the depths of my heart through these experiences with them. As a result of this weekend I soon decided to break up with my girlfriend to make my discernment more serious and a little over half a year later after steadfast prayer, consistent spiritual direction and growth in familiarity with the Order I decided to apply to become a clerical brother candidate.
I can’t even begin to thank the Lord enough for the journey he has taken me on and I am very grateful, humbled, and excited at the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic and the many friars that have come and gone. Our age is in need of preachers of truth; preachers of Christ and his love for the world. I ask that you would seek our Blessed Mother’s intercession in praying for my brothers and myself as we prepare for the novitiate.
– John from MI, studied at University of Notre Dame (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saints: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena
I was raised outside of Detroit, Michigan, and am the second of seven children. We are blessed with very faithful parents who have taught us to love the rosary and Mass, who have sacrificed so that we could attend Catholic schools, and who have nurtured such a strong Catholic family. Upon looking back, I realized that there were two particular events in middle school that opened my heart to Our Lord’s call (one being the promise to God by a bishop for whom I was serving that one of his servers would become a priest), but I simply dismissed such thoughts, knowing I would first have to go to college. Throughout high school, I was influenced greatly by the spirituality of Opus Dei, learning on retreats about mental prayer, spiritual reading, and the fruits of daily Mass and the rosary. Learning, however, is quite different from practice, and it was not until college that I began to care seriously about being formed in the faith. Notre Dame, thankfully, has myriads of opportunities. Fittingly, I believe it was by beginning the daily praying of the rosary at the grotto during Lent of my freshman year that I allowed Our Lady to lead me to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. My heart was being prepared for a call.
I met the Dominicans quite naturally, seeing them in action for the first time at my brother’s Simple Profession. Providentially, just the week before for the first time I had seriously asked what discernment of the priesthood actually meant. The lines of the closing song about being sheltered under Mary’s mantle entered my heart, where they were again stirred after reading a biography on St. Dominic that told the story of his vision of all the Dominicans under the mantle of Our Lady in heaven.
After a semester of prayer and spiritual direction, I attended a vocations weekend in DC, where I felt that Our Lord was affirming this vocational path for me. Through contemplation and then preaching the Truth, I hope to be God’s instrument—however imperfect—in the world for my brothers and sisters. His grace, through the sacraments especially, is the only remedy that truly satisfies and leads us to eternal life. Please pray for us that we may persevere in love for Our Lord and His Church and that we may hold nothing back as our own.
– Matthew from MN, studied at North Dakota State University (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saints: St. Joseph, St. Thomas Aquinas
I was born in Jamestown, ND, but raised in Moorhead, MN. I am the fourth of five children in a close and supportive Irish-Catholic family. While growing up, I and my siblings all attended the local Catholic schools in Fargo, ND. It was in middle school (during a time of Lectio Divina in Religion class) that I first felt God calling me to consider the priesthood. However, I did not want to even consider that possibility at the time as it didn’t fit with the plan I had for my life. I struggled with the faith throughout high school, but returned to the fullness of the faith my senior year after making a retreat at the behest of some of my close friends. Not long after this retreat, the thought of the priesthood kept returning in prayer, and I knew at that point that I couldn’t ignore it.
In the fall of 2012, I began studying Physics and Mathematics at North Dakota State University. At the same time, I began attending Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s Newman Center and joined Bible study through FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students). The fellowship with the other men in my Bible study prompted me to probe deeper into my faith, and I attended FOCUS’ national conference, SEEK 2013. It was at SEEK that I first met Fr. James Brent O.P. as he was promoting the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. By the end of the conference, I became comfortable with the idea of becoming a priest, but I also realized that God was calling me to wait at that point in time and continue my studies at NDSU.
During the following year, my faith exploded, aided in large part by my participation in a ministry called Young Disciples Apostolate the summer of 2013 (where I discovered a love of teaching). I became much more involved at NDSU’s Newman Center, and I began attending Mass daily and took on several Adoration hours. In January of 2014, I attended FOCUS’ Student Leadership Summit, where I first met Fr. Benedict Croell O.P. The following summer, I went on a FOCUS mission trip to Mexico City (where Fr. Benedict was the chaplain). While there, I learned (with a some help from Our Lady of Guadalupe) to be radically open to the will of God. God then firmly placed it on my heart that I should seriously consider the Dominican Order. At that point, all I knew was that the Order focused on preaching the truth and on study, two things which greatly appealed to me. How could I say no?
Since then, I have continued to prayerfully consider the Dominican Order. I attended a vocation weekend at the Dominican House of Studies in February of 2015. I also visited the friars of the Central Province, where I had a chance to catch up with two former teachers from my high school who have joined the Dominican Order. This past spring, I also had the chance to spend almost a week with the friars in Washington, D.C., and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Ordination Mass of Fr. Peter Totleben O.P.
Throughout it all, God has continued to fill my heart with a deep and abiding peace. I am excited to see what God has in store for me in the days and months to come. Please pray that I and my fellow classmates, through the intercession of Our Lady and St. Dominic, may be radically open to the will of God during this year of novitiate!
– Joshua from Alberta (Canada), studied at the University of Alberta (clerical brother candidate)
inspirational saint: St. John the Evangelist
I was born the second of seven children in a strong Catholic family. I was homeschooled until I went to grade 10, which allowed my parents to instill in me Catholic values and a love of study. My father was a constant example of self-sacrificial dedication to his family and so I naturally desired to live a life dedicated fully to the service of God. As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of the confusion our society has about what is true, or even about what truth is. I encountered in Catholic philosophy and theology answers to the basic problems of our world, and naturally I wanted to defend the Church where she was attacked and to proclaim her truths to a world desperately in need of her. I became fascinated with saints like Thomas Aquinas who combine intellectual rigor with an extraordinary love of God.
Through late high school and college I felt the call to the priesthood. I began to feel more and more that a secular life would not bring me true happiness and that I had to consecrate my endeavours to God to find Joy in life. My spiritual director suggested the Dominicans of the St. Joseph’s province and so I made a vocation visit to the Dominican House of Studies in my senior year. I was amazed by the dedication to truth, the beauty of the liturgy, and the practical zeal with which the friars approached the salvation of souls. I began to study more Dominican saints and spirituality. I was awestruck by Saints like Dominic, Catherine of Siena, and Thomas Aquinas who combined a deep life of prayer with a love for the Church and the Truth she teaches, a love expressed in their profound and sacrificial dedication to the work of the Church.
I graduated in April of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics. In that Fall, I began living and volunteering full-time in a homeless shelter run by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx, where I stayed for 9 months. I saw every day the effects of the culture of death and the need for Truth and Love in a broken society. It has become clear to me that the only solution to the great problems of our age is the Truth that only the Church teaches. I am extraordinarily grateful to God for leading me along this path and to the Blessed Mother for watching over me since before I was born. I ask your prayers as I continue to seek God’s will in my life.
Jubilee 2016 Ordinations to the Priesthood in DC (largest class in 45 years)
EWTN LIVE BROADCAST of ORDINATIONS – May 21, 2016 at 9:30AM EST
Next Vocation Weekend at the Dominican House of Studies