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My first thoughts about the priesthood were when I attended a Steubenville retreat in Missouri with Catholic Youth Ministry. I wasn’t a big fan of the retreat and I didn’t enjoy the party approach to Catholicism, but that was just me personally.
Despite this, at the end of Mass on Sunday, all the boys who were thinking of joining the priesthood were asked to come up to the front of the stage. Many boys went up, and for some reason, I felt like I should have gone. Even though the feeling was overpowering, I didn’t go up to the stage. I regretted my hesitation because directly upon arriving to the stage, the priest blessed all the boys who had gone up.
Later, I felt that the blessing would still have applied to me, even if I wasn’t physically with the rest. For about a month after the retreat, I figured that after high school, I would join the seminary. But I didn’t talk to anybody about my intention, other than a mention to my parish priest and my uncle.
After a while, my plan changed to joining seminary after two years at a community college, so that I could really discern. And then, after I frightened myself out of going, I changed it to: “If I am not married by the age of 30, I will become a priest.” It then changed to age 35, and then to 40. Mainly, the reason was because I wanted to get married and have children. The priesthood just seemed like a silly thought at that point, and it seemed like I would never become one.
Fast forward a bit, and I am now about to go into my second year of college. The thought of the priesthood was in the back of mind. But then, the chance to attend the Steubenville retreat came up again. My mom asked if I would go and I agreed. And again, while I was there, the boys ran up to the stage and were blessed. But I didn’t run up, and was again faced with the question of joining the priesthood. It fell out of my mind again until I and other members of the Ignite youth group watched a movie (recommended by my mother) called "All or Nothing."
The movie really inspired me, and, that night while the group was talking, there was a bowl of blueberries sitting on the table. I don’t like blueberries at all, so I told God, “If I eat a blueberry, and it tastes good, then I will take that to mean you want me to be a priest.”
I ate it, and it was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten, and my stomach dropped; I was actually scared. So, I tried eating more, and none of them tasted good, they left a bad taste in mouth. And about a week later, on Sunday, Deacon Joseph Friend caught me outside after Mass and told me that I should become a priest, and the rest is history.
If you wish to contact John Hoelzeman, please e-mail Maria Izquierdo-Roque in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published July 1, 2020. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.