|August 14, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 14 • Oakland, CA|
'Speak, Lord, your servant is listening'
My middle name is Samuel, which is a good reminder for me to heed the infamous words of the young prophet: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10). My life has not always been one of listening to God, but God is faithful, patient and loving. My vocation story is one of discovering this about Him, and remembering that there is nothing as important as listening to the voice of God.
I find it providential that my first weekend as a deacon I get to preach on the Transfiguration, where the disciples, Peter, James and John hear the voice of the Father telling them to listen to His beloved Son, Jesus. For me and my vocational discernment, this began in Spring 2005. I was about to graduate from high school, but was going through some "rebellious" times. My parents arranged for me to talk with our pastor at the time, Father Paul Minnihan. To my surprise, there was no rebuke, but only a question: "Have you ever thought about priesthood?"
The idea of discerning priesthood, however, was totally foreign to me, and rather unappealing. Instead, the prospect of college life and all that entails was more enticing. I chose not to listen and hid Father Paul's remark in the back of my mind as I went off to pursue a life in theater, a fast-paced life, where one, if not careful, can be easily swept away. This happened to me for a time, but Father Paul's words, although hidden, were not lost. They were planted, like a seed, waiting to be watered.
It was cantoring at St. Monica that got me to refocus. Through the preaching of our new pastor, Father Wayne Campbell, God's voice began to become clearer, and the seed of vocation began to be watered. I was hearing that God did care about my life and my decisions, and that He was offering me that something I was seeking but could not get anywhere else. It just so happened that Father Wayne noticed this too, and to my amazement, uttered the same words I had heard five years earlier: "Have you ever thought about the priesthood?"
My discernment process was quick by most standards, about seven or eight months only. After visiting St. Patrick's with Father Wayne one summer afternoon in 2011, I knew I had to make a choice, and so I took the leap, thinking I would give it one semester and withdraw. I will never forget the sense of peace I had on move-in day, August 2011, with my parents by my side. I knew that God had brought me to this place in order to teach me how to listen to Him.
The last six years at St. Patrick's have been a blessing. I have met some of the best people I have ever known, devoted to God and to His Church. It has not always been an easy journey; at times I have wrestled with God, but He has always been faithful, patient and loving. Now that I enter my final year as a deacon I look back on the journey that led me to this point with great gratitude: for the love and support of my parents and siblings, for the camaraderie and fraternity of my brother seminarians, and for the wisdom of the priests who helped me to get to this point. My vocation to the priesthood has truly been a group effort, and I echo a favorite quote of Father Wayne Campbell: "All that I have seen has taught me to trust all I have yet to see." I count this call to priesthood as nothing but blessing and grace, and look forward to serving the Diocese of Oakland for years to come, where together we can say with each other: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."
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