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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 directs us. My parents and teachers would talk about it and encourage me to pray about what God wanted me to do with my life. Starting around 7 or 8 years old, 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 a good priest one day. I often tell people today that one of the unique ways God can speak to us is through other people. At a young age, I firmly believe the Lord was placing the ideas about the priesthood through others.
The first few times of this happening I did not take it very seriously. However, as time passed on and it continued to happen, 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. Being so close to the priest during Mass also engaged me a lot more than before. I spent less time waiting for the Mass to end and more on the Eucharist and various prayers.
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 from an early age. One of the traditions in my family was to always pray the rosary together at night. Being able to take part in that helped me grow closer to my family, the Blessed Mother, and our Lord. Seeing my parents take their faith very seriously encouraged me to do the same on my own as I grew older.
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 during eucharistic adoration. That Saturday, I told the Lord that I was seriously considering the priesthood, but I was afraid of making the wrong choice. Little did I know when I entered into adoration that God was going to answer me.
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. Christ spoke to me at that moment, saying that he wanted me to become his priest. I was speechless right then and there, but there was no way for me to deny what had just taken place.
Back in Arkansas, I started looking into the seminary and attended some retreats hoisted by the seminarians. As I met the seminarians and heard their stories, I was moved to start talking with priests about discerning a vocation to the priesthood. This eventually put me in touch with Msgr. Scott Friend, who ended up becoming a great teacher to me. I finally made the decision to join after graduating high school.
God’s presence in my life has never been more evident though than in the past few 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 biggest 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 from time to time, 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.
Now in my last year in the philosophy program, it is hard to fathom how fast the time has gone by. I still talk to God about my vocation, and through that I receive the confirmation that he wants me to walk down this road here in Arkansas. Thank you for your prayers and support throughout the years. I look forward to hopefully one day serving you as a priest. God Bless.
If you wish to contact Thomas de Prez, please e-mail Georgina Pena in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published Oct. 11, 2021. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.