Last week, I gave up my bulletin message spot to highlight the letter from Archbishop LeGatt to begin our Good Shepherd Campaign 2023. Since the Good Shepherd Campaign does largely support our seminarians, I thought it might be appropriate to share some of my own personal vocation story. This is, of course, a very abbreviated form, but still good to share.
At the Easter Vigil in April of 2011, I had come to a particular conclusion in my journey of faith, having made a profession of my baptismal faith, received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, was Confirmed, and shared in the Holy Eucharist for the first time. Certainly an important milestone, though not the end of my journey of faith. Within this journey, I was recognizing a greater desire to serve and be part of the mission of the Church in some way, though not exactly sure how. At the same time, I was becoming less and less satisfied with the things in my life that I had planned or thought would fulfil me such as my career or the other many worldly pursuits.
I had begun RCIA while I was also in an important relationship with a young woman and we were engaged to be married. This friendship and the things that came from that relationship was what brought about faith within me and encouraged me to ask and seek the bigger things of life than simply what many others sought. It was certainly my choice to want to become Catholic, and not simply because I was going to be marrying a Catholic.
As I continued through the RCIA process, however, the Lord was giving me opportunities to continue to purify my motivations as my relationship with this young woman went through difficulties that made us question our future together. We still remained good friends, however, and had times in our relationship where we continued journeying toward marriage and other times where this seemed less certain. Eventually, we decided to end our engagement. Thankfully, my vibrant faith was growing now and there was much consolation with it at this difficult time of my life. It was in these moments that often God felt closest to me and my prayer life continued to grow.
With these changes in my life, I gradually began asking God what his plans for my life were. Up to that point, I had largely decided what I wanted and would do in my life, but had hardly even considered what he wanted. I then began asking in prayer. I recall one day driving to work and asking God to help me know how he would like me to love and serve others. The answer came that I was to love others like Jesus loved. In hindsight, this is certainly the call and vocation for any baptised Christian. But I felt then that it particularly meant for me to love like Jesus did as a celibate man, to love everyone inclusively without an exclusive relationship like marriage. The only real experience I had of such a love was through a Catholic priest. I had sort of gotten to know more about Catholic priests during my journey of faith, but hadn’t considered it at all for me, especially with my intention to marry. I was then filled with all sorts of emotions: fear, anxiety, joy, sadness, and peace. I thought then that I should at least consider it seriously for myself.
As I began to learn more and research, I continued to pray about it more, and I realised a growing desire within myself to be a priest. I recall a local discernment retreat and praying with a scripture passage that’s always spoken to me: “he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). I think Jesus had allowed me to share in his compassion and was calling me to be a priest, to shepherd his people though that experience. After taking such a potential calling seriously, I took the next step in contacting the vocation director for the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. I was accepted as a seminarian to discern and study for the priesthood and entered St. Joseph Seminary at the end of August in 2012.
I hope this brief snippet of my story can add to the many great stories shared with the Good Shepherd Campaign from our seminarians or the young priests who have been supported by such efforts.
I am, in our Lord, yours.
Fr. Brian Trueman