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Growing up in a large Catholic family, one of the questions I often thought about was what a vocation is and how God tells us what it is. At a very young age, I was thinking about whether God might be calling me to the priesthood. This probably happened from the constant remarks from people after daily Mass saying how I would be good priest one day.
The first few times I did not take it very seriously, but it started happening so much that I began to wonder if God was working through other people to let me know what my vocation is. The thought grew in my mind, and I decided to keep it there, even though it probably wouldn’t go away if I wanted it to.
Another ongoing experience that made me consider the priesthood more was altar serving. Ever since receiving first Communion and being eligible to serve, I tried to take every opportunity I could to serve on the altar. This brought out an admiration in me for priests and what they do. Ever since Christ first instituted the priesthood, priests have stood “in the person of Christ” to offer the sacraments to the Church. Their sacrifice for the sake of Christ is what keeps the Church alive and vibrant. Helping out on the altar allowed me to learn more about what a priest does and have a closer view to the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
Growing up, both of my parents took their faith very seriously and installed a love of it inside me. My dad was part of the secular Carmelites and always joined the local group whenever we moved. My mom, on the other hand, always helped out at church functions and would bring me along. Seeing how important it was to them made me think deeply about my relationship with Christ. This had a profound impact on me. Early on I was taught to focus on what God wanted me to do with my life, and so am glad that I took the advice seriously.
To give a little more background knowledge on me, I was originally born in Portland, Maine. My father worked for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and we moved around a lot. We moved to Arkansas in the summer of 2013. We had heard about Catholic High School in Little Rock and wanted me to continue Catholic education. I started to go to Catholic youth ministry at Immaculate Conception Church to meet new friends, and it was there that I first heard about the Steubenville youth conferences.
The conference is a Catholic youth retreat for high school students centered on the Eucharist. I had been to several retreats before in my life, so I signed up with not a lot of expectations for change. Much to my surprise, Steubenville ended up being very dissimilar, but in a good way. I was with thousands of other Catholic youth that shared my love for Christ and wanted to be in an even deeper relationship with him. It was during my time at the retreat that I received a sign from God about my vocation.
Steubenville adoration is conducted with the priest taking up the monstrance and carrying Jesus throughout the crowd of people. This takes a long time, and there is only one spotlight on — facing the priest and Jesus. It was when the monstrance passed by me that I felt something I have never really felt before, nor can I describe with words. I knew in that moment that Christ was definitely calling me to the priesthood.
When I came back to Arkansas, I immediately began the process of meeting priests and seminarians about joining, and before I knew it I was signing up for the seminary directly out of high school. The first year of seminary went by quickly, and I felt truly at home with the other seminarians on the same journey toward priesthood.
God’s presence in my life has never been more evident though than in the past couple of years in seminary. My father passed away at the end of my first year, resulting in a lot of confusion of what I should do moving forward. It was in that time though that support came from God, showing me that he was always beside me. My dad was my largest supporter when I made the decision to enter, and I came to the realization that he still was supporting me more than ever, even though I couldn’t see him. While the pain of his passing still affects me, I receive strength from God each day to carry on. The support I also received from my brother seminarians also helped me appreciate the vocation path I am following.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I already have been through two years of seminary. The call God made to me in that Steubenville retreat still echoes true in my mind and heart every day. With God’s grace, I hope to continue working on being the person Christ wants me to be. Thank you and God bless you.
If you wish to contact Thomas de Prez, 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.