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A decision-making problem

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When a seminarian enters seminary, either St. John Vianney College Seminary or St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, they begin with a retreat. In August 2013, I began my five-day silent retreat at St. Vincent’s. This retreat would change my life.

Allow me to make a public confession: I was about to leave the seminary in early 2013.

Obviously, I didn’t leave, as I have been happily and joyfully ordained for the past three years (working on four). But every now and again, the bad days in seminary catch up and the thought comes into play, “I’m getting out of here.” Yes, there are good days and bad days in seminary, much like there are good days and bad days in the workforce, school, families, and just about everywhere we turn. What I had forgotten was the advice Archbishop Wenski often gives the seminarians, from when he was in seminary: “We cannot make a decision about our vocation after a bad day in seminary.”

I remember sharing with my spiritual director at St. John Vianney my decision to leave. He simply said: “Matthew, you are not leaving seminary. Graduate from St. John Vianney College Seminary and then make a decision once you make it to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.”

I remember speaking with my biological brothers and my seminarian brothers and they all encouraged me to really pray about it and they would support me whatever I decided. When I told my parents, my mom was able to read my heart better than I could have, because moms have that superpower where they know us better than we know ourselves. I finally made it to St. Vincent de Paul and shared with my new spiritual director my decision to leave the seminary. His response: “We can work with this.” Then came the life-changing moment in the life-changing retreat.

On the second or third day, we heard a talk by an older Jesuit priest, Father Dominic Maruca, and his words still ring in my ear: “Gentlemen, the world doesn’t have a vocations problem, the world has a decision-making problem. I knew when I entered the seminary, I was going to be a priest, and dang it (slamming his hand on the ambo) nothing was going to stop me being a priest.”

I took those words to prayer and realized: I had never decided that I was going to be a priest, I had only decided to enter seminary. From that moment on my prayer transformed from “Lord, do you want me to be a priest?” to “Lord, I am going to be a priest; if this is not for me, please be explicitly clear.”

I share this story because we need to start deciding. Maybe we have already made our decision, in which case we can assist others in making their decisions. Through my parents, brothers, spiritual directors, and the prayers of the people of God, I can share this with you all on this side of ordination.

On this Vocations Awareness Week (Nov. 7-13), let us ask the Lord to help men and women decide to follow him as priests, deacons, religious brothers, religious sisters, lay faithful families committed to the Church — because the world doesn’t have a vocations problem, the world has a decision-making problem.

Fr. Matthew Gomez
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Comments from readers

Rafael M. Calvo Forte - 11/08/2021 11:20 AM
No hagas mudanza en tiempo de tribulación. Sta. Teres de Jesús.
Patrick J Prendergast - 11/08/2021 10:54 AM
Thank you Father for sharing these intimate thoughts with us. The most important decision in life is choosing a mate. That is if you are not choosing a life mated to the Church and to Christ. Vocation is a higher level to be sure. Formation today is so difficult but I suppose every age has challenges. I am so grateful that there are men willing to take the vocation.
Vilma Angulo - 11/08/2021 08:00 AM
Fr. Matthew. Your candid expressions of your journey are an inspiration. I was privileged to have been a part of that journey with our 5th graders at the time of your ordination. No prouder kids standing on pews at the Cathedral that day because of your “Yes”. as you processed out as “their priest”! They continue to speak of you and pray for you as you made indelible marks on their young lives. Be assured of how many lives have been transformed and encouraged to lead holy lives and maybe yes, even to the priesthood because of you! Blessing to you as you continue to inspire all of us!

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