I’m using this blog to keep people up to date on what I’m doing and I know y’all span the Catholic/Protestant/Non-Christian spectrum. Because of that, I want to get everyone on the same page when I talk about certain things. I am going to condense some theology and “Church-Speak” in this post, so please bear with me while I bring you up to speed on background knowledge. Part one will discuss the priesthood and how I got here, then part two will discuss how the seminary process works.
There are two types of priests – diocesan priests and religious priests. Diocesan priests are the ones you are most familiar with. These are the men who wear black and have the white collar. Most diocesan priests will spend their entire priesthood serving in a parish as a pastor (or associate) and they are the priests you see every weekend when you go to mass. Diocesan priests are ordained by the bishop of their particular diocese (a geographical region of church organization) and at ordination promise obedience to the current and future bishops of that diocese. They promise to live a celibate life in order to image Christ and give themselves fully to their people, and do not pledge poverty, but rather promise to live a life of simplicity. They will likely be moved to a new parish every 2-6 years but will always stay within the diocesan boundaries. The people of the diocese are their mission and flock. I’ll leave the theology of what makes a priest unique and why they are necessary for another time (More on that here and here).
Now, religious priests are different because they first join a religious community and then receive priestly ordination. These men frequently have a distinctive set of clothing called a habit (think a “monk robe”). Examples of religious orders include Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Oblates, and these men take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience when joining a community. Poverty means they themselves cannot own anything (all their needs are provided for by the community), chastity means they will sacrifice having a wife and family in order to give themselves to the church, and obedience means they serve wherever their superior sends them. They are not bound by a particular geography, but rather serve wherever their community’s specific charism, or mission, is needed. These men (there are also women religious communities – think nuns) live together and support one another as family. There are thousands of different orders of varying size across the globe, each devoted to a unique mission.
I am moving in the direction of the diocesan priesthood. Last fall I visited and talked with a few religious orders, but decided that parishes are where I want to be. I am incredibly drawn to the possibility of serving and building up communities of faith because it is in parishes that the majority of Catholics are formed and fed. Parishes provide the primary means of catechizing the faithful and are a springboard for evangelizing to the larger community and world.
Why Austin? I was born and raised in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. It was here that my parents raised me, taught me the faith, and introduced me to Christ. It was at my parish in San Antonio that I had the opportunity to grow deeper in love with Christ through the sacraments, youth group, conferences, mission trips, and retreats. The diocese treated me very well.
For the past four years though, I have been a member of the Austin diocese while attending St Mary’s Catholic Church at Texas A&M University. It was in the Austin Diocese that I discerned my call to priesthood and it was priests of the Austin Diocese that supported me throughout the process. It was priests of the Austin Diocese who served at St Mary’s that made me say “I want to do what you do and serve the way you serve.” Last December I attended a discernment retreat run by the Diocese and it was there that I finally felt a peace I had not found anywhere else. I spoke to Fr Brian McMaster, the vocation director for the diocese (a priest whose job is to encourage and support men and women considering religious vocations), and he gave me the paperwork to apply to be a seminarian.
I worked on my application throughout the spring. I completed a psychological exam, a physical, wrote a 10 page autobiography, filled out an extensive application, acquired transcripts, and completed a final interview with Fr. Brian. The Austin Diocese does not have its own seminary to form its future priests, so I was asked to fill out a separate application for studies at Holy Trinity Seminary. In early June I found out Bishop Joe Vasquez accepted me as a seminarian for the Austin diocese, and in July I was accepted to Holy Trinity Seminary.
Now I’m here