School: Mundelein Seminary 1000 East Maple Avenue Mundelein, IL 60060
I was born and raised in Alpharetta, Ga., so I’m thrilled to be entering into a life of ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta! My mom and dad (Kathy and Norm), and my sister (Amy) and I are parishioners at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Alpharetta. We love our parish family, and we’re especially grateful for the Lifeteen program at our parish. It was there that my sister and I encountered Christ and the beauty of our Catholic faith, where my vocation to the priesthood was cultivated and solidified, and where my mom has found great joy in serving the teens as a core team member.
I am a graduate of Chattahoochee high school (class of 09) in Johns Creek. During my high school years I enjoyed playing sports (football, wrestling, and track and field), playing trombone in several bands and the symphony orchestra, and staying involved in groups like FCA.
Despite discerning a vocation to the priesthood from a young age, after high school I decided to head to college. I attended Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga. (Hail Southern), where I graduated in 2013 with a degree in multimedia communications with a minor in political science. During my time at Georgia Southern I was pursuing a career in broadcasting, so I enjoyed an internship covering minor league baseball teams for scout.com, and an internship with Georgia Southern Athletics where I helped managed social media accounts and media relations for our athletic teams (I especially enjoyed this internship when I was on the field at “the Swamp” when my Eagles upset the Florida Gators on November 23, 2013).
During our breaks at the seminary I enjoy coming home to Johns Creek where I grew up and spending time with my family and with all of my parish family at St. Brigid.
What are your hobbies and interests?
I’m a die-hard sports fan when it comes to the Braves, Falcons, and my Georgia Southern Eagles! I like to play golf (though I would hardly call myself a golfer), and love to get out on the course that we have on our seminary property. I also love music. I sing and play several instruments, and at my seminary I serve as a cantor and as a leader for praise and worship once a week during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I’m also an avid fisherman, so during my free time at the seminary you can usually find me out on our lake fishing for bass (or, as I like to call them, war pigs).
What is one of your favorite scriptures?
John chapter 4, the Woman at the Well. I have a beautiful painting of this scene in my room at the seminary, and I see this story as the model of priestly ministry. Jesus encounters a woman caught up in all kinds of sin. Culturally she was an outcast. Her life would have been miserable… And Jesus sits down and talks to her, which would have been unthinkable at the time. Through all of that sin and pain in her life her encounter with Christ pierced her heart, and the love and mercy of Jesus changed her. From their encounter her entire village was converted. Jesus, God himself, sat down with a woman trapped in sin, and looked at her not with judgment or anger, but with love, compassion, and mercy. We’re all like the woman at the well. We all have our own sins and pain. But Christ is always there; ready to meet us where we are. One day, God-willing, as his priest, I’ll have the privilege of bringing that same radical love, mercy and compassion to everyone I encounter in ministry.
Who is your favorite saint and why?
My confirmation Saint is St. John the Baptist, so I have a strong devotion to him. I also pray constantly to Pope Saint John Paul II, among many others. However I would have to say that my favorite two intercessors are St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I love St. Therese (the Little Flower) and her little way, and she’s been huge for me throughout my seminary formation, and even though Fulton Sheen is not yet a canonized Saint, I still pray to him because of how powerful I find his books (especially The Priest is not his own), and his television shows and speeches that I watch on YouTube.
In a nutshell, what is your vocation story? How did you feel called to the priesthood?
To be brief, I grew up at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Duluth (before eventually moving to St. Brigid). I remember being a little kid and being fascinated seeing the priest celebrating Mass every Sunday. When I was nine years old I began serving at the altar, and I think it was there that I knew that I was called to the priesthood. This call grew deeper throughout my teen and young adult years, and I remember having powerful experiences in my heart during retreats at Covecrest with St. Brigid Lifeteen, especially during adoration, where I felt called to be a priest. For whatever reason, the call was dimmed out during my college years, but I was blessed in June of 2013 with a profound experience where I knew that I could no longer run from what Christ was ultimately calling me to. An old core team member from my Lifeteen group, Father Dennis Dorner, was ordained to the priesthood, and I attended his first Mass at St. Brigid. During that Mass I was floored by the grace of God, and before I knew it I found myself down at the chancery in the vocation office with Father Tim Hepburn handing me an application to enter the seminary formation program for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
What is seminary life like for you?
Seminary life is challenging, yet incredibly exciting and rewarding. I attend Mundelein Seminary in the northern suburbs of Chicago along with around 15 other guys from the Archdiocese of Atlanta. It really is a blessing to live in community and grow in faith and fraternity with nearly 200 men preparing to serve as Christ’s priests in this new and exciting time for the global church. Every day holds something new and different, and the time spent studying philosophy and theology, along with regular spiritual direction and daily prayer, continues to deepen my relationship with the Lord.
Seminary life also comes with some pretty incredible opportunities! From May to August of 2016 I spent my summer learning Spanish in Guatemala and Peru in order to ensure that upon my ordination I’ll be capable of serving all of the wonderful people of our local church in Atlanta. I’ve had the chance to travel to places and do things during my time in seminary formation that I never would have been able to do had I not listened to the Lord’s call to the priesthood in my heart.
What do you look forward to about being a priest?
There honestly isn’t a part that I’m not looking forward to (aside from perhaps some of the boring paperwork that’s part of just about anybody’s job), but I would have to say that I’m most excited to hear confessions. Sharing the love and mercy of Jesus Christ in the confessional in a world that so badly needs to be healed and receive his mercy is something that I look forward to every day.
What advice do you have for other guys thinking about the priesthood?
Three things: First, receive the sacraments regularly, especially Holy Communion (daily if possible) and reconciliation. Use these physical encounters with Christ to your advantage. Like Peter all throughout the Gospel, we are bound to get into some trouble when we are not close to Christ. Second, spend time in silent prayer and meditation every day, in front of the Blessed Sacrament if possible. This is where we hear Christ calling us and how we ensure that His peace is with us in our hearts. Third, talk to a priest! Find a good priest to help you in your discernment, and don’t be afraid to call the vocations director. Father Tim Hepburn is a great resource and an awesome spiritual advisor.
And don’t be afraid. It’s a beautiful life, and if it’s what Christ is calling you to, you’ll find incredible joy and peace by entering into it!