A couple months before graduation, though, I felt like God wanted me to consider doing something else. I had thought about being a priest at different moments throughout my life, but now that high school was ending, and it was time to make life decisions, it seemed like He wanted me to think about it a little more seriously. The summer after graduation, I attended a two-month discernment program with the Legionaries of Christ, and in the fall—instead of starting at Tech—joined their seminary in Cheshire, CT.
It’s been awesome so far! The first two years were introductory years (called “novitiate”), totally focused on giving me the opportunity to grow in my spiritual life—that is, my relationship with Christ. At the end of novitiate, I made my “religious profession” (vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience by which I consecrate my life to God), and after that, stayed in Cheshire for two more years to study classical humanities.
Since August, I’ve been living in Rome, Italy, studying philosophy at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.
Tell us what it’s like to live in Rome, especially during these times of the COVID-19 Virus.
Living in Rome has been amazing! First, it’s just been cool to have the experience of living in an actual city—not the suburbs.
Second, that city is kind of the center of Catholicism! Here, you can feel that the Church is alive. There are pilgrims from all over the world, religious sisters and brothers from every congregation you can think of, and a ton more you’ve never even heard of, and bishops, priests, and other seminarians everywhere (and from everywhere). It’s also cool to be near the Pope and be able to participate in the huge papal masses. Sometimes, we even get to serve in them, too. For example, in October, I got to be a Eucharistic minister in the canonization mass of St. John Henry Newman in St. Peter’s Square.
Third, the food here is amazing, and Italy is beautiful (I’ve been able to travel around a bit...but still lots to see!).
The last five weeks—since the COVID-19 crisis began here—have definitely been interesting, but now that it’s in the U.S., I’m sure you’re all familiar with the circumstances: everybody stays home, classes are online, you keep the safe distance from each other at the grocery store, and wash your hands a lot. While there have been many cases in Rome, it hasn’t been hit nearly as hard as the cities in the north, and luckily we haven’t had any cases in the seminary community so far.
How did Pinecrest prepare you for seminary?
The first thing that comes to mind is something super practical: at Pinecrest, I learned Spanish! The official language of the community I’m living in is Spanish (not Italian, haha!), so I’ve had to speak, read, and write it every day since August. I was able to get a really solid foundation in Spanish at Pinecrest. (Thank you to Sra. Llavería, Sra. Restrepo, Srta. Swanson, Sra. Treviño, and Sra. García!) So once I got into a Spanish-speaking environment, I became fluent pretty quickly.
Knowing Spanish has also helped me learn Italian (closely related to Spanish), which I’ve needed, because my classes are in Italian and because I help lead an ECYD team of Italian kids at a parish in the city.
How did your years at Pinecrest influence your vocation?
My years at Pinecrest gave me the opportunity to grow close to the Lord! A vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life isn’t something that someone just decides to “do” because they think it’s a good thing. It’s a personal invitation from God, which happens within a personal relationship with him.
At Pinecrest, I had the opportunity to live and grow in this relationship with God—above all, because the chapels were always open to visit, spend time in, and speak with Him. There were also priests available for confession whenever I needed it (often!) and mass whenever I woke up early enough in the morning (not so often!).
If I hadn’t had these opportunities to grow close to Christ, I probably would have never heard his invitation, and even if I had, I might not have had any desire or strength to leave my plans aside and follow.
What is your favorite memory of Pinecrest?
WAAAY too hard to pick just one, and hard even just to pick a few. I’ll throw some out though, in no particular order: all the field days of elementary and middle school, throw-back field day during senior year, Mrs. hwat’s class, getting my ears pulled by Mrs. Gannon on my birthday, the 8th Grade Dance, the volleyball/cookout/holy-hours that we had junior or senior year, donut days, AP Euro and the last study session with the entire AP Euro class at IHOP right before the exam, pretty much all the dances during high school, AP Spanish Lang and Lit, all of the Homecoming weeks, the senior year Homecoming game comeback, the Senior Mission Trip, Graduation...and pretty much all of my last semester. There are definitely way more, though.
Was there a teacher at PA who really influenced you?
Probably Mr. McCabe. He really challenged me to make what I thought and believed my own.
You are part of a large family, some of whom are PA alums and younger siblings who are still students here. How has PA shaped your family over the years?
I would say it’s shaped us in two important ways: our relationship with God and our friends.
Each of my siblings is different, but I think all of us have had a common experience of realizing the importance of putting God first in our lives. (I can at least say this of “the older kids,” and I really hope “the younger kids” realize it, too). This has happened because we’ve grown up in an environment in which we were nurtured in our faith and given many opportunities to encounter God. While I think my parents have played the biggest role in making/allowing for this to happen (and a whole bunch of God’s grace working through them), Pinecrest definitely played a huge role, too.
When I look at my siblings that have already graduated from PA, I also realize that, for all of us, some of our best friends today are still people who we went to high school with. Of course, all of us made new friends after we left, but I think it’s awesome that the friendships we made at Pinecrest have been good enough to hold onto years later!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Unless some big unexpected change comes, I pretty much know what I’ll be doing for the next couple years. After this year, I have two more years of philosophical studies, and then will go on apostolic internship, and then will return to Rome to study theology for three years before diaconate ordination. So, in five years I’ll be finishing my first year of theology, getting close to ordination!
What advice would you give a PA high school student?
1) Seek God and his plan for your life above all else! Go spend a couple minutes with him in the chapel every day, and talk to him as to a friend, or to a good father. Know that whatever he wants for you is to make you as happy as you could possibly be (and he knows what would do that...he made you!), and to also be open to what he wants for you. Whatever he leads you to, asks of you, or offers you, don’t hesitate to follow.
2) Pick good friends: people that want to be good, that inspire you to be better and holier, and that are fun!