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My first thoughts of a possible vocation to the priesthood came early in high school. I attended the Catholic Charities Summer Institute (C2SI) in ninth grade and got my first taste of the need for people to bring Christ to the world.
I also met many young Catholics at this camp who were on fire for their faith, which began to grow the same kind of passion for my faith. I began to truly engage in Mass, and my understanding and belief grew in the extraordinary things that were happening in Mass.
I noticed a desire to continue to deepen my faith and a desire to help others deepen theirs, so I applied to be a part of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for the Diocese of Little Rock. As part of this group, I received great fulfillment and joy in serving others through prayer services and facilitating an environment for others to have a close encounter with Christ. Because of this love for ministry, thoughts of the priesthood grew in my mind and heart.
My friend, Josh, was also a member of YAC with me, and he had been discerning a vocation to the priesthood for a long time. We have been able to talk about our vocations with each other, which has always been very helpful and encouraging for me in my discernment.
In 11th grade, I began to have questions and doubts about my faith. I wondered about the existence of God, whether or not the Bible is true, and whether or not prayer actually worked. These doubts caused me confusion and turmoil, but ultimately turned me toward God in a new way.
I began reading about these things and listening to podcasts and videos from priests about these topics. With help from these priests, my faith was strengthened, and I also grew to love and admire the work these priests did. Because they had been a blessing in my life, I wanted to offer the same kind of blessing to others.
I attended the annual Come and See retreat put on by the seminarians of the diocese. After hearing the stories of many of the seminarians and praying the divine office and celebrating Mass with them, God gave me an overwhelming sense of peace in following him. I began to truly love the idea of serving as a priest, and was convinced that I had a calling to the priesthood.
During my senior year, I ignored this calling through a lack of trust in God and a lack of prayer. I began to put my own agenda over God’s and chose to go to the University of Nebraska, my dad’s alma mater. In my time there, my self-confidence waned and something didn’t feel right. I was in a Catholic fraternity with other Catholic guys, but I felt very different from most of the guys around me.
Over Christmas break last year, I attended Dc. Nelson Rubio’s diaconate ordination. Once again, God greeted me with an overwhelming sense of peace at the thought of surrendering myself to him to become a priest. After two years of God calling me to take the next step toward the priesthood, I finally did so.
I have been living in the House of Formation for three years now, taking biology and philosophy classes, and receiving much formation directly from the Lord in prayer, through the formators and the other seminarians. My continued response to the Lord’s call to enter into a deeper relationship with him has not been easy, but I often see little reminders of the ways in which I’ve grown since entering the seminary. Please pray for me and all of the seminarians as we continue to discern God’s will. Signs of your support and faith renew my commitment to pursuing the vocation God has for me. Thank you!
If you wish to contact Jonathan Semmler, 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.