Josh Johnson didn’t know what God wanted from him. He was certain it was something special, something beyond just weekly attendance at Mass, so he listened and he prayed. And then one day not unlike any other, his calling became a bit clearer, and he decided this was the place he needed to be.
Johnson, a senior at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary from the Diocese of Crookston, grew up in a family with an active parish life, and that faithfulness was reinforced with his attendance at a Catholic high school. As a result, the faith was woven into each day, but beyond that, Johnson hadn’t much considered what it meant to give your life to the Lord. Not unlike his peers, he was focused on other things – things deemed important to normal high school–aged kids: grades, athletics, and social standing.
“I never really considered seminary when I was younger,” he said. “Like in elementary school, middle school, and even into high school, I was like ‘seminary? No.’”
Johnson was, as he put it, “very good at being good at high school.” His grades were solid, he played a role on the football team, and he had friends all around. But despite that wealth of good fortune, something was missing. He wasn’t satisfied. And that led him to think harder and deeper about what he could find that would fill that void. So, he turned to a constant presence in life: his faith.
“It was in the process of … encountering the Lord in a real way in some prayer experiences and being like, huh, maybe this God thing is important,” Johnson said.
An article he read during his junior year by C.S. Lewis made it all the more clear.
“The basic premise was, if what should be most important in your life isn’t most important, then everything else will lose its meaning,” he said. “And I was like, yes, this makes sense. This makes complete sense because that is what I had been living out.”
That revelation set him on a trajectory of discovering how he could most effectively put God first in his life. He made more space for daily prayer, and he did so at the expense of things he once loved.
“I decided to quit football my senior year,” he said. “My coaches weren’t happy.”
It was then in the summer of his senior year, while reading an article about living without fear and anxiety, that he became awash with inner peace, and those negative feelings left him.
“In that moment of them going away, what entered my mind was, ‘Josh, you’re going to enter seminary,’” he said. “It was pretty direct and pretty big.”
So that’s what Johnson did, though he admits that even during his first two years at IHMS, that desire to enter the priesthood hadn’t developed. He just knew he was responding to God’s beckoning.
“I was like, ‘Alright Lord, you’re going to have to deal with me,’” he said, with a laugh.
But as he journeyed through formation, he began to develop that sense of purpose, and finally, during the summer before his senior year of college, that desire took root in his heart, and everything God had done to prepare him for that moment came to fruition.
“It’s something where it’s not just the Lord’s will, but my own will, being able to say yes, let’s continue, let’s go for it,” Johnson said.
And in that sense, Johnson has come to accept the idea that it’s God who’s in control, which, for someone who likes to understand why things happen the way they do, was a stretch because seminary is a time of exploration, and answers aren’t always readily available.
“It was as process of learning that I don’t need to be in control,” he said.
And Johnson will have to continue allowing God to lead beyond his time at IHMS. Wherever the journey takes him, his wish is that God provides him the ability to love well and serve others.
“To be able to do that practically in my day-to-day life in the encounters I have, especially as a priest, and being able to have Christ be present to others through me, that’s my ultimate hope.”
~ Ryan Henry, IHMS Communications