The following are short stories about the senior men at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary. The stories highlight their own personal journey it IHMS, how it is God called them to be here, and how they've grown throughout their formation. Check back often as more stories are added.
My journey to seminary began when I was in grade school. At that time a curiosity and a sense of profound wonder concerning the priesthood was placed upon my heart. Little by little that curiosity spurred me on to learn about the priesthood, vocation, and the call to holiness. As my knowledge of these things deepened and matured throughout middle school and high school, there emerge within me the question of vocation, specifically, "Am I called to be a priest?" There was no immediate answer one way or the other, but the gentle pull toward the priesthood remained. I had lots of support and encouragement to enter seminary from family and friends, but I found the greatest encouragement in prayer. This gentle call/pull was all I had but it was enough. By the end of high school, it was clear to me that I needed to enter the seminary for further discernment.
My time at IHMS has been marked by growth, both in places of strength and weakness but most of all in prayer and relationship. The most important area of growth for me has been learning what it means to be a beloved son of the Father; the faithful belief and living out of this truth has been incredibly transformative and lifegiving. These past few years have been the most challenging, yet grace filled years of my life and I am very grateful for the faculty and my brother seminarians at IHMS who have shared many of the joys and sorrows alongside me and have formed me through their love of Christ and his church.
I was in a Bible study during my junior year of college where I was challenged on my belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. We were all told that if the Eucharist is true, why are we not spending more time with the creator of the universe, God. After a few months of asking in prayer if the Eucharist was true, I encountered Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time while serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. As I was distributing the Precious Blood, I knew in my heart that I was holding Jesus in my hands. At that moment I knew that The Eucharist was real, which also meant that everything within the Catholic Church must be true because the Church is the only place where the Eucharist actually is Jesus, and not just a symbol of Him. At this point, I was also trying to figure out what I was going to do after college, but now I realized that I wanted to be able to make Jesus part of my life in a greater way. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that instead of bringing Jesus into my job, why don't I just make my entire job about Jesus; so I decided to apply to be a FOCUS missionary. After accepting a position with FOCUS, God started to invite me to consider serving Him in an even greater way by discerning entering seminary. Halfway through my first year with FOCUS I knew that I needed to pursue this calling that God placed on my heart, so I asked FOCUS if I could end my contract with them at the end of the year in order to enter seminary and by the grace of God, they said yes. I didn't really know what to expect when entering seminary, except that I knew that I would have to go back to college to get a philosophy degree before entering theology school. The formators and other seminarians were all inviting and also challenged me to grow in my relationship with the Lord. While at IHMS, I have grown tremendously in my understanding of various aspects of our faith while also growing in friendship with the other seminarians.
I was born and raised in Rochester, MN. I grew up in a Catholic school system having graduated from Lourdes High School. In 2017, I found a newfound interest in the Catholic faith during my later years of undergraduate studies at St. John's University (MN). After graduation in 2019 and compelled by the transforming message of the Gospel, I served 2 years as a FOCUS Missionary in Chicago.
It was during my time with FOCUS, a college outreach apostolate serving on college campuses across the United States, where the Lord began to put the priesthood on my heart. This would continue to be cultivated through the newfound peace and excitement I found in each step of my continuing discernment. Entering the Pre-Theology program at IHM, I have been blessed with an incredible community and staff to walk with me through the possible call to the priesthood.
My vocation story began at my baptism. My pastor told my father that, since I was his first baptism at the parish, it was an old priest legend that I was destined to be ordained. The priest who later took over at the parish, a very old Benedictine, said something similar when he first saw me wandering up the steps of the church at age four before Sunday Mass. I always loved going to Mass, and in kindergarten, I felt a child-like desire to one day be in the sanctuary, just like Father. From then on, my life seemed to be governed by a sense of destiny, as if my future life was set in stone. However, sin crept into my teenage life, and I began to feel disconnected from both God and His Church. It was only after a number of years away from the Sacrament of Penance that I was able to have a profound experience of God's mercy in the confessional. From there, I was convicted with the belief that others had to experience the same radical compassion that I had. The idea that three words, "I absolve you," could wipe away years of sin dumbstruck me, and I knew others had to hear those same words. It wasn't long before I found myself at the seminary.
In my years at IHM, I have found myself challenged in many incredible ways, but I could never say that a single one of these challenges was not necessary or a major source of growth in my character. Over the years, multiple people have remarked that they had rarely seen me smile before I entered the seminary, and that even my gait had changed. But above all I would summarize my growth in the seminary in a simple maxim: Before I entered, I believed that I had to change myself to be like a priest so that I could merit the priesthood. I had to be "strong enough" for the job. These years of formation have never failed to show me my own weakness, and from these experiences, I now know that the challenge is to be weak enough for the priesthood, and to be weak enough for the easy yoke of Christ.
My senior year of high school was quite the rollercoaster to put it simply. Amidst trying to figure out what the Lord wanted me to do with my life, applying for colleges, and everything else that comes with becoming an adult, a friend invited me on a retreat that Fall. After some convincing, I decided I would tag along. I went into the retreat asking the Lord for one thing: to tell me what He wanted me to do with my life. At one point during the retreat, it seemed as though everything stilled for a moment as I gazed upon the San Damiano crucifix hanging in the corner. I heard the Lord say to me so clearly, "Would you do this for me?" I knew immediately that he meant priesthood and I responded with the most joyful yes I think I have ever been able to muster. To really seal the deal, about 2 minutes later a priest asked if any of us were considering priesthood or religious life and would like to talk. I took that opportunity and here I am now, entering my senior year at IHM!