This week we have Logan Nilsen, a seminarian of the Diocese of Camden speaking at all of the Masses to encourage priestly vocations.
To supplement what Logan has to say, I thought that I would share my own vocation story with you. My vocation to be a priest started in the family, in the home and in the Catholic schools. My parents were not overly religious. We attended Mass faithfully each week and my siblings and I were in contact with priests and sisters primarily through the Catholic schools that we attended. Priests and sisters were regularly invited to our home for dinner. My parents never pushed the idea of being a priest on me. However, being an altar server from about third grade on through high school and being in a Catholic elementary school put me into close and regular association with my parish priests.
I really began to think seriously about being a priest in high school. I could remember standing in my high school cafeteria during a school dance (checking out the girls there) when a priest who taught me religion came up to all the guys. He was asking if we ever thought about becoming a priest. When he came up to me, I told him politely that I had thought about it but I don’t think that it was for me. Sometime later in my senior year, however, I went back to the same priest and admitted to him that I thought that God was indeed calling me to be a priest. I wanted some information at that point about entering the seminary.
After going through the necessary application procedures, I entered the college division of St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia at the age of eighteen studying for the Diocese of Camden. Many people questioned whether I knew what I was doing, some suggested that I experience more of life first, but I knew what I was hearing internally was this mysterious call from God—an invitation from Jesus to be his disciple, his priest. After four years of college, four years of graduate school theology at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary (in Emmitsburg, Maryland), and a pastoral year in a parish, I was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-six.
This May I will be thirty years a priest. I can distinctly remember praying in high school that God would give me a good wife. In fact, He answered this prayer in a way that was quite remarkable. Jesus gave me His own bride—the Church. It was not quite what I expected, but it was what He had planned for me. And I am truly grateful beyond words.
I know that today there are many more distractions preventing young people from even considering being a priest. I genuinely do not think that our faithful God ever stops calling. Rather, I truly think people stop responding to the “call.” They stop saying “yes.” God with His invitation never takes away our free choice. He offers us as priests a unique privilege to act in persona Christi capitis (in the Person of Christ the Head).
A Catholic priest is called to preach and teach, to govern and to sanctify the People of God. In the sacraments he is necessary for us to have the Holy Eucharist, to forgive sins in confession and to anoint the sick and dying.
Please pray for our seminarians and priests. Please encourage young men to think and pray about a priestly vocation. God will continue to do the calling. We should do our part to support and promote whatever God intends.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Diocese of Camden Seminarian