School: Pontifical North American College
00120 Vatican City State, Europe
I was born in Stone Mountain and spent my whole life until college there. I was baptized in Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Decatur and that has always been my home parish! I attended St. Thomas More School for grade school, and graduated from St. Pius X Catholic High School. In short, I’m a through and through hometown kid! I’m an only child in a single parent home; my mom is a retired DeKalb County educator, and my grandmother and aunt also lived with us. My grandma was born on Auburn Avenue, as were her parents and grandparents. When they were children, my grandma (who was born on Auburn Avenue in downtown) used to take my mom and aunt to Mass at Sacred Heart! My life and my family are both deeply rooted in Georgia and that is something I’m very proud of. It is at the heart of my love for our archdiocese!
What are your hobbies and interests?
Music is my first love. I have played the piano since I was two years old, and I also play drums and any other percussion instrument. I also love to work out in the gym, boxing (anywhere anytime!), lacrosse, and swimming. I am a huge football fan (go Falcons)! Another big passion of mine is reading; I love any kind of history (especially European and military history), Russian literature, law, philosophy, and theology. Lastly, I am incredibly interested in the classical temperaments and the different personalities of people!
What is one of your favorite scriptures?
Acts 9:31-“ The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the holy Spirit it grew in numbers.” To me it evokes such a beautiful vision of God’s plan for the Church, even now here on earth. I also love the missionary dimension it brings to mind; the whole idea is to have the number of those being saved to be huge!
Who is your favorite saint and why?
That is a tough question! But pound for pound my favorite saint is St. Teresa of Avila. She was a talented, strong, fiery woman who wanted to find the best way possible of loving and being a saint; for her, it was the religious life. She blossomed into one of the deepest mystics the Church has ever seen, though not without many struggles in prayer that we would all recognize! She caught fire with love for God, and went around founding new convents, saving wayward priests, giving spiritual direction to her own spiritual directors. There was a great story that she was able to go from silent prayer before the Eucharist to making shrewd business deals for affairs of her order with men who were trying to cheat her! Nothing could stop her from living out God’s call for her life, or squash her love of Him… there was a time when she was building a new convent, and realized that they would not finish by morning Mass, and had no chapel. She busted down a wall of someone’s apartment and (politely) asked them to leave so they could build a chapel! Who wouldn’t love a saint with fire like that.
In a nutshell, what is your vocation story? How did you feel called to the priesthood?
My vocation story begins on my mother’s lap when I was a baby, learning who God was and how to pray. A relationship with God in the Church has always been the center of my mom’s life, and she passed that to me. As a kid, I wanted so much to be an altar server, so I could be on the altar helping the priest and to be close with the sacred mysteries. Doing that for so many years really solidified my love for our faith, and my esteem for priests, but I didn’t ever think of being a priest myself; truth be told, I was sure it was something I could never of right ask for, nor could I be chosen for (I was right on that first part at least!). Coming out of high school, I was set on a career as a prosecutor and being in the military, and preparing to propose to my girlfriend. But during this time, I was also deepening my prayer life by spending time with the Blessed Sacrament during lunch, praying the rosary, and going to daily Mass in the mornings at school. I began experiencing a powerful attraction to the priesthood, and was totally shocked! I was directed by my pastor, Fr. Eric Hill, and Msgr. Richard Lopez, my high school chaplain, to talk to the Vocations Director, Father Luke Ballman. He gave me the book To Save a Thousand Souls and told me to pray over it while at college, and to see what happens I went to Virginia Tech for college and experienced much success there; in fact, I would have graduated in only two years. At the same time, I was still deepening my prayer life, going to daily Mass, and weekly Adoration, in response to various things I saw about college life, and in preparation to be a husband and father like I wanted. But the priesthood never left my thoughts; indeed, it grew louder and stronger in my heart until I simply couldn’t ignore it. I knew God was calling me and my only desire was to respond. It has been an incredible journey these past five years I have now been in seminary!
What is seminary life like for you?
I am currently in seminary at the North American College in Rome; so you could say my experience of seminary life is really unique! I get to pray, study, work out, eat, and walk in the heart of the Church! There are saints and beautiful churches on every street corner! I have the privilege of studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University with many of the leading theologians in the Church! I have even gotten to serve Mass for Pope Francis and shake his hand. Every week, I have the honor of giving tours of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, the largest Christian burial ground in Rome, to pilgrims. I cannot accurately express in words what a blessing it is. Seminary is hard work, but each and every day is joyful because it is a generous gift from God to be able to live for a time of preparation with Him just as the apostles did, to grow in my relationship with Him and be prepared to go back to the people of Atlanta as His priest! This isn’t done alone, but in a community of brother seminarians and priests living in a spirit of true love for the Church and fraternity with each other.
What do you look forward to about being a priest?
I look forward to living the life of Christ from the inside, as St. John Paul II said about the priesthood. I am most excited about celebrating the Mass each day… what an incredible responsibility to offer Jesus in the Eucharist each day at the altar to nourish the life of the Church and to feed the people with His Body and Blood, all with my own hands which become His hands, and my voice which becomes His voice! I am also excited to hear confessions, visit and anoint the sick and dying, to preach the Word, to baptize and witness marriages, to bury the dead… in essence, I look forward to being a spiritual father to the people of God!
What advice do you have for other guys thinking about the priesthood?
You’re gonna roll your eyes at me because you’ve heard some version of this before, but I would first say the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ and you will find true life.” If you feel an invitation, a tug, a pull, an inkling in your heart that Jesus is calling you to be His priest, (seriously) don’t be afraid! He will be and is enough for you, all your life long! Run towards His loving voice, not away from it; go to Mass as often as possible, confess frequently, and stay close to God in prayer, asking Him for courage to listen to His will for your life, and to follow it in joyful freedom! Talk to your parish priest or priests, your close family and friends, and definitely talk to the Vocations Director and to us seminarians! If Jesus is calling you, I assure you that you can make no happier a choice for your life than the priesthood.