It is no secret to anyone who has asked my vocation story. I am convinced that I made it through the seminary on the merits and prayers of 'God's Blue Hair Army' who diligently attended their weekly holy hour at the little Adoration Chapel at Immaculate Conception Church in Botkins, Ohio. (Which just so happens to be my home parish.)
Let me back up a bit. I guess it was during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school that I had my first opportunity to attend a retreat day/visionary experience at Our Lady's Farm in Falmouth, Kentucky. (Think Medjugoria without all the hoopla.) I think the visions that were supposedly happening there have since been proven false, but on the 8th of the month for several successive months, my mother, brother and I would attend this pilgrimage, even to the point that we (my brother and I) were 'leading' a bus for the day. We would leave the friendly confines of Botkins, Ohio, and travel in a caravan of two to four buses to the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center for Mass (now the location of the studios for Sacred Heart Radio, among other things) before traveling further down the road to Falmouth for messages that Our Lady would give to a visionary. While there were certainly miraculous things that happened during those trips, I didn't go b/c of the visionary, I went to connect with God, through Mary.
After going a few times that summer and then heading into my senior year during the fall, Cindy, who was the coordinator of the trips, started challenging me. Every time she saw me, she would look up at me and say: "You're going to be a priest some day!" My response: "Cindy, SHUSH! I'm going to be a doctor!" "I'm praying for you." was her simple response. I, of course, immediately started to pray to be a doctor. (Hindsight says if you have an option of me praying for you or Cindy S., choose Cindy!)
These little tits for tats lasted my entire senior year of high school, during which time I was dating a very nice girl (shhhh! she was a Protestant! Oh, the horror!) so I was not at all interested in the priesthood. Cindy became especially devious and by this time had started putting a petition in the prayer book in the Adoration Chapel at the parish, as well as getting her prayer group of her fellow little old ladies, to pray that I might become a priest one day. (SHE CHEATED!)
Low and behold, I went off to Ohio State after graduating from high school as a proud chemistry/Pre-Med major thinking that God had answered my prayers and left her's in the dust! HA!
As is again obvious, she triumphed in the end. (Ok, really, it was God, but only because she went all Andy Dufrense on Him and kept pestering him about me and the priesthood.) At the beginning of my third quarter at OSU, I came in a little late to the Catholic Student meeting at the Newman Center (run by the Paulists, no less) because I was an officer for the Pre-Med group which met the same night. Well, this particular evening, the topic at hand was vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
I couldn't sleep that night. I tossed and turned. I got up at one and watched tv (causing my roommate to look at me with serious concern on his face.) I left at two in the morning to walk around campus (don't suggest you follow in my footsteps on this one!) Finally, I agreed that I would talk to one of the priests at the Newman Center about it, and got to some sleep that night.
Easter weekend was even worse, as how do I tell my mother and what would she say? Finally, after hemming and hawing all weekend, I stopped her at about 2:00 on Easter Sunday: "Mom, I think God might be calling me to be a priest."
Well, after picking her up off of the floor, we looked at each other and wondered what was next. The rest, as they say, is history. I switched to the Josephinum in Columbus the following year. Three years later, I graduated and headed to Mount St. Mary's in Cincinnati. Five years post that, I was taking a nap in the Cathedral one morning....
But, importantly, during those eight years (which were a little more tumultuous than I lead on, but for the sake of brevity (In an already 1000 word plus article, he mentions 'brevity'?!?!?) I'll skip the nasty details), Cindy, her friends, my mother and sister, plus people I did not even know, prayed for me, by name, before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
I would have NEVER made it without their prayers.
Which leads me to my whole point, that I have wanted to make on this blog for at least the last week ====>
The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy is looking for people willing to offer Eucharistic adoration for the preisthood and 'consecrated feminine souls' ready to become spiritual mothers of priests.
If you think that there is nothing that you can do to reverse the vocation crisis, you can always pray! NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF PRAYER!!!!
It got my sorry butt through the seminary, unworthy tho I be. Pick one man in seminary, one young woman in formation, and offer each an hour of prayer weekly.
My priesthood is an example of what can happen when a community joins together to pray for this. (Oh, and the gifts keep giving, as another young man from my home parish is likely entering the seminary in the fall!)