It’s hard to believe I’m about to leave seminary! I first thought about becoming a priest when I was 7 years old. My parish priest told us how he’d felt “called” to the priesthood – and I remember wondering with a certain dread whether I’d ever hear that call too. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I thought God was indeed asking me to become a priest, but even though I felt God wanted it, I didn’t want it for myself. I didn’t want to leave behind the possibility of getting married, having a family, and having a job. I saw the idea of priesthood as a ‘no’ to what I wanted.
At 17, I went along to a Catholic prayer festival for young people. It was a five-day event, with talks, music, daily Mass, and 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. So much of this was new to me! I’d come from a parish where only a handful of young people went to church – and here I was joined by 1000 other people my age, wanting to know God and to know his plan for their lives. All of a sudden it didn’t feel ‘weird’ to think of priesthood. I spoke to a priest that weekend about where I was at, and about my struggles in deciding on priesthood or marriage. He showed me that my first priority, and the vocation that we all share, was to grow day-by-day in holiness, to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, receiving the sacraments, and inviting God into the ordinary things of everyday life. If we live in this way, he said, our more personal vocation will become clear.
I took his advice that very weekend, and during the Reconciliation Service I made an honest and complete confession for the first time in years. On leaving that confessional I felt a profound joy and an intimacy with Jesus that has never left me. All I wanted to do was to give my life to him, however he wanted. It was in the months and years that followed that I became more sure that that call was to the priesthood. After a university degree in psychology, I entered seminary at St Mary’s College, Oscott, and having been ordained as a deacon in June last year, I now look ahead to a final semester of studies and ordination as a priest in August. It’s gone so quickly, but I’ve never felt rushed – when God asks something of us, and when we take a step of faith in responding generously to his call, he makes us the happiest we can imagine. Thanks be to God!