Deacon Frank Cicero

The Lord’s call for my life was one that was a radical revelation of His love and mercy. There was never a thought growing up about seminary or opening my life up to God in this evangelical way. The first time the thought entered into my mind was June of 2009. I was always open to God’s love but only in the way that I wanted to receive it. My faith growing up was a strength, but the older I grew the weaker it became, until I was totally enveloped by the pleasures of this world. I was seeking a spiritual need in a physical place, though on the outside I perceived to have everything but what I really had was nothing. I was lonely and broken. It was only through great suffering that His mercy was able to captivate my soul, to take the brokenness in me and heal me through His divine love of the Eucharist. It was then that I was given the strength to truly stand and be not afraid to say yes to God.

  • Parish: St. Timothy
  • High School: Desert Mountain
  • Grade School: Sandpiper and Sonoran Sky Elementary
  • Favorite Saint(s): My mother and Fr. Charles Canterna, St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Augustine

Deacon John Nahrgang

I didn’t grow up Catholic but clearly remember attending my first Mass. I tagged along with a hockey teammate and his family one Sunday morning after a sleepover. There, at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Minnetonka, Minnesota, the Blessed Virgin Mary apparently took notice of the ten-year-old boy not accustomed to kneeling in a pew. I attended public schools and grew into an agnostic with a strong desire to attend the University of Notre Dame. There, the Blessed Mother began asserting her presence in my life, most notably as Our Lady of Guadalupe when I spent a semester living and studying in Mexico. Six years later, I was accepted into the Catholic Church at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A year after that, God gently invited me to begin exploring a vocation to the priesthood. I spent three years in formation with a wonderful Marian religious community, during which time God began steering my discernment towards diocesan priesthood. Armed with sufficient clarity on that question and mindful of both a desire for Hispanic ministry and my parents’ future, which involved retirement in Arizona, I asked God to confirm an application process for the Diocese of Phoenix. He did so and I am now at peace with my new path, grateful for the love and support of my adoptive diocese, and hopeful for a wonderful future as a Catholic priest under the patronage and mantle of our Blessed Mother.

  • Parish: OLPH – Glendale
  • High School: Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minnesota)
  • Grade School: Glen Lake (Minnetonka, Minnesota)
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Faustina, St. Philomena, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, Bl. George Matulaitis

Deacon Vinhson Nguyen

When I was growing up I wanted to become a priest in the same way a lot of kids wanted to be astronauts and firefighters. The problem was that I didn’t stop to think about what God wanted me to be until a couple of years ago. It was a big change in my life that pushed me to learn more about myself and what God made me for. I found myself praying more often, going to mass daily and going to confession regularly. It was when I’d be praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and at mass that the thought of priesthood always came to mind. It was when I attended last year’s ordination (2010) that I was moved to finally respond to this call. I met with Fr. Paul, the vocations director, and opened a line of communication with him. It was through him that I met other men discerning their vocation. Spending time with other discerners was encouraging because we shared a lot of the same experiences and thoughts about the entering seminary.

For anyone discerning their vocation I believe there are two things that are most important. They are participation in the sacraments and prayer. I believe that the more we encounter Christ in communion, confession and prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament the more apparent our vocation will become.

  • Parish: Resurrection
  • High School: Mesquite High School
  • Grade School: Gilbert Elementary
  • Favorite Saint(s): Sts. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Paul, John Vianney and Philomena

Chris Gossen

I was raised Catholic, and my parents had taken me to Mass since I was a baby. In middle school, I joined my parish choir and youth group and I began to hear from people at my parish that I would either become a Youth Minister or Priest. That was a little scary at the time and I ran from the thought. However, in 2009 I felt the Holy Spirit call me to become active in the Church. I began volunteering with the youth group at my parish and eventually became Youth Minister and working at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in HR. The thought of seminary and the Priesthood entered my mind again in 2009 and further developed through prayerful discernment, attending and serving at daily Mass, praying Liturgy of the Hours and meeting some of the Phoenix seminarians.

I attended a retreat on Joy in Vocations in which the Retreat Master said you can’t discern two vocations at the same time, and that you should trust God and take a jump. I began to experience a deep sense of peace and I spoke with the Diocesan Director of Vocations, Rev. Paul Sullivan, and applied to the seminary. Since being at the seminary I have come to recognize the constant role God has played throughout my life. I am deeply grateful to all those who have supported me throughout the years and who have made an impact on my discernment. St. John Vianney, Patron of Priests, Pray for us.

  • Parish: St. Bernard of Clairvaux
  • High School: Desert Mountain
  • Grade School: Cochise
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Joseph; St. Patrick; St. Bernard of Clairvaux; St. John of the Cross; St. Therese of Lisieux; St. John Vianney

Estevan Wetzel

My encounter with discerning the Catholic priesthood was gradual, yet powerful. I grew up in a loving, Catholic-Hispanic home but was a bit of an introvert while at Most Holy Trinity Elementary School. I sought to find a hobby to which I could dedicate myself and was able to find my “niche” in sixth grade by altar serving. It was here that the seeds of discernment began to be planted as I became very attentive to the Holy Mass and parishioners would tell me that I would make a great priest. It was not, however, until sophomore year that I truly became open to the Lord’s call.

While at a Steubenville Conference, before the Blessed Sacrament, I received the Lord’s Love in a personal way that made me realize that I was not a face in the crowd, the Lord knew me by name and He was calling me to be a saint. This changed my life dramatically because it gave me the graces to focus on enriching my faith in youth group, to strive to serve God in a more committed way, and to not fear the idea of priesthood. Gradually, as I continued my time at St. Mary’s High School, I realized with much peace, joy, and excitement that the Lord wanted me to enter seminary right after graduation. I applied and was accepted as a seminarian in June 2011.

As I’ve been in seminary, the Lord’s presence has continued to be with me and has guided me as I progress in formation. This presence has been most tangible in the grief and healing I have experienced after the deaths of my brother and father. As a result, I have come to learn that it is His Love that has sustained me as I am formed, tested and given the graces needed to be a spiritual father for the Diocese of Phoenix.

  • Parish: Most Holy Trinity
  • High School: St. Mary’s Catholic High School
  • Grade School: Most Holy Trinity
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Blessed Miguel Pro, St. Josemaria Escriva

Kevin Penkalski

I have to accredit my desire to be a priest to Mary. One night I really was at the end of my rope and I prayed a Rosary as seriously as I could, pleading that Mary would reveal what and who God desired me to be. The next day, I served a Christmas Day Mass, and a man I never met before told me, ‘You should consider the priesthood.’ A couple months later, I ran into a priest that was a long time friend of my pastor, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Get into seminary!’ Then it was just tons of people saying, ‘You might want to consider the priesthood.’ My heart was filling up with the idea of living like a priest, celebrating the Eucharist being the top thing that was on my mind. I was dying to fulfill this yearning, and I decided to let the Vocations Director know.

We decide I should go to Arizona State University, and continue discerning. I wanted to really test this desire, and so I became very involved with the Newman Center. I realized that I needed to grow as a man first, so I let down my guard, and allowed people to show me how much I needed to grow. It was hard, but even with people highly skeptical of my desire, I never gave up hope. After the Day of Discernment in 2010 I knew I needed to apply. I was accepted about four months later.

  • Parish: Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne
  • High School: Boulder Creek High School
  • Grade School: New River Elementary School
  • Favorite Saint(s): Mary, Bl. John Paul II, St. Nicholas von Flüe, St. Michael, St. James, St. Jude, St. Louise de Montfort, St. Therese of Lisieux , Archbishop Fluton Sheen

Marvin Soto

Holy Mother Church teaches us that from before we are born God has already loved us and had a will for us. A good life is, therefore, a welcoming in the heart of that love and will. I did not become aware of this reality until after High School. Like many men, I lived much of my earlier days numbly watching life as a vapid succession of moments. In the midst of all the free time afforded by having graduated and not yet going to college, the Good Lord made Himself present to me one night. I can´t quite explain how it was. It was not like a thunderstorm or anything grand like that. Rather, I felt somewhere deep within that God was real and that from then on life would never be the same. After that moment I subtly made my way back to the confessional and the full practice of the Faith.

Above reading and praying the Catechism and Scripture, the place where I most deeply experienced the love of God was at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There, in that fascinating time of pure worship, I felt such an authentic closeness with Christ that I had to state openly that I was most full when at Mass. This, which was God´s presentation of joy into my life, became the first and fundamental step in all my discernment. After reading a book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen called “The Priest Is Not Is Own”, I decided to make a daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. This was the place where love for Christ truly began to flourish in my heart. There are so many sweet memories which fill my mind when I think of this period in my life, that it would be impossible to write them down. It can perhaps be best described as true love affair which integrated all that was true, good and beautiful in my life into a single path towards Christ.

The time of discernment was mainly about learning to “decrease” that Christ may “increase”. The more this takes place, the more deeply a man lives in joy. As I continue to be formed in the seminary, I become more convinced of the yearning deep within to become the love of the Heart of Christ in the world through the ministry of the priest.

  • Parish: Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral
  • High School: Alhambra High School
  • Grade School: Barcelona Middle School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Joseph, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Bosco, St. John Paul II, St. Josemaría Escrivá, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Blessed Theresa of Calcuta, Blessed Chiara Badano, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Gabriel Terrill

Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to be a priest. When I was young I wanted to be a Trappist monk, a scientist, and an astronaut. Over the years I gained a fear of outer space and realized that math, the least favorite topic, played a major part in most sciences. I also realized that Trappist monks spend most of their lives in silence, which was a deal-breaker for me. However, through all this the desire to be a priest was still present. Over time this desire grew, in receiving my first Communion and Confirmation, as well as serving on the altar as an altar boy. In high school I started taking the possibility of becoming a priest seriously and began asking priests at my parish about the priesthood. I found out about this thing called a seminary, not to be confused as a cemetery, where young men just like me discerned and studied to become priests. Knowing this I visited the Josephinum, a college seminary in Columbus Ohio, and  was encouraged by what I saw to apply to the seminary. I was moved by the fraternity found in the seminary, and the genuine desire of those involved to discern God’s will with an open heart. Soon after I was accepted in 2012, and so far it has been the best decision of my life.

In discerning whether or not to enter seminary the things I found most helpful were a devotion to silent prayer and adoration, as well as regularly receiving the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) and the Eucharist. The best way to know God’s will for you is to first get to know Him, and there is no better way than through prayer and the sacraments. I was also fortunate to have the support and encouragement of my family, priests, and many others at the parish.

  • Parish: St. Mary Magdalene
  • High School: Home Schooled
  • Grade School: Home Schooled
  • Favorite Saint(s): Maximilian Kobe, John Vianney, Theresa of Calcutta, Paul, Francesca Cabrini, Josemaria Escriva, Thomas Moore, John Paul II, Blessed Stanley Rother, Blessed Henry Newman

Nathaniel Glenn

For as long as I can remember, priesthood has always been on my mind. It was on and off in my childhood, but when I was around 12 years old, I began reading books on Catholic doctrine that explained what we believe and why we believe it. I absolutely fell in love with the Catholic faith, and my discernment of the priesthood really grew out of that.

One of the biggest factors in my discernment has been prayer. By developing a steady prayer life (starting out with praying a rosary every night), I grew in a relationship with God. It was in this relationship that I felt him strongly calling me to serve him, especially in moments of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and in communal praise and worship. Prayer is indispensable if you want to discern what God’s will is for your life, priesthood or otherwise.

Throughout my teen years, my vocation was also strengthened by my environment: I attended St. Mary’s High School and met other strong Catholic men and women; I joined the local Life Teen youth group and entered into communion with other growing Catholics; I became a lector, altar server, and Eucharistic Minister at my local parish. By surrounding myself with people and activities that helped me to grow closer to God, I also grew closer to the idea that this same God might be calling me to serve him in the priesthood.

  • Parish: Corpus Christi
  • High School: Saint Mary’s High School
  • Grade School: Kyrene Del Akimel A-al Middle School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Therese of Lisiuex, Padre Pio

Jonathan Tansill

The adventure which I call “my openness to the Will of God” began when I was in college. I was born and raised in a beautiful Catholic family with very devout loving parents and three wild rambunctious brothers. I went on many Edge and Life Teen retreats throughout my upbringing, but nevertheless in high school I started to fall away from my faith. I would continue to keep up the outward appearances of a Catholic, but my heart had gone dry and I only sought my own will. In high school I got caught up with the wrong friends and one day made a very vulnerable prayer. I asked Jesus to take away all my friends that wouldn’t bring me closer to him. I lost almost all my friends. The next year I befriended and joined a group of incredible Catholic college students who lived together at ASU campus. I went on a retreat with them called The School of the New Evangelization, and on this retreat I had a radical encounter with the Jesus Christ and heard Him say that He loves me. My life was forever changed. I was on fire for the Lord and wanted to know, love, and serve Him for the first time of my life. My faith was no longer my parents but my own. I started going to daily mass, making a holy hour, and praying the rosary for the first time. I pursued the Blessed Lord in the Eucharist, and I allowed myself to be pursued by Him. I found myself running to the chapel whenever I had free time, and I felt a real joy when I served mass at the Newman Center. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to give my life away and do the Lord’s will. Through this vulnerability he showed me my desire for the priesthood and called and confirmed me to it in multiple little distinct ways. I eventually talked to a couple priests about joining seminary, I applied, and here I am. I am getting closer to the Lord each and every day. The life of a seminarian is a hard life, but it is joyful and filled with many graces. I continue my adventure of drawing close to the Lord and doing His Will.

  • Parish: St. Timothy
  • High School: Valley Christian
  • Grade School: Sonoma Ranch, Edu Prize, Greenfield Jr. High
  • Favorite Saint(s): Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Philip Neri, John Vianney, Tarcisius, Theresa of Jesus

Thomas Willis

A friend of mine, another Phoenix seminarian, whom I have known since he was a baby, knew he wanted to be a priest from the age of six. Not I. Although I grew up in the Faith, learning it at home and at the parish, and even got to go to daily Mass frequently, I never even considered the priesthood until I was 20. At that time I really did believe the claims of Christianity. I believed the Catholic Church to have been established by Jesus Christ. It all appealed to my reason, but that was about as far as it went. In my sophomore year of college God began to help me to see what the Second Vatican Council called the Universal Call to Holiness; every single Christian has a vocation to imitate Christ and to strive after personal holiness. Once I began to realize this, and to see my own responsibility as a Christian, I was able to hear God inviting me to serve Him and His Church as a priest.

At the time it seemed a truly impossible and even undesirable future. It was absolutely not what I wanted to do with my life. But with the grace of vocation came the graces of love, faith, and obedience. Thanks to this grace I applied to the seminary for the diocese where my New England college was located, and spent three years of seminary in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2016, I was given another invitation from the Father, this time to return to my home diocese of Phoenix, Arizona. When I look back on the years since I began discerning it is truly amazing what God has done for me and the good work He is accomplishing in my life. It is a true privilege to preparing to serve the Church as a priest.

  • Parish: San Francisco de Asis, Flagstaff AZ
  • College: College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
  • High School: Homeschooled
  • Grade School: Homeschooled
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Joseph, St. Philomena, St. Joan of Arc, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas Becket

Harold Escarcega

Stemming from the strong foundations in the Catholic faith that my family fostered in me, I began to feel my calling in high school. I consider myself very blessed, having had there the opportunity to delve deep into the writings of many prevalent philosophers throughout Western history. I began to find that all of the philosophies I was reading, especially those of Aristotle, were resonating deeply within me, and were fostering in my soul a desire to be a good, virtuous person; by God’s grace, these desires found their natural counterpart – my Catholic faith – and quickly became embedded in it. Consequently, my desires for “virtue” and “goodness” were transformed into a deep love for God and a desire to serve Him. This desire to serve Him, by the gentle caresses of His call, slowly became what I thought was a calling to the Catholic priesthood. Following my graduation, I attended Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Being in an excellent Catholic environment, it was easy to hear God’s voice as He entreated me all the more to enter seminary formation. After only one semester, I truly knew that God was calling me to put aside my worries and qualms, and do just that. I applied and was accepted during my Spring semester to the Pontifical College Josephinum, and now find myself studying in the program for priestly formation – truly at peace with my discernment and overjoyed to follow God’s call to drop everything and “come follow me” (Mark 1:17).

  • Parish: St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernadette
  • High School: Veritas Preparatory Academy
  • Grade School: Homeschooled
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bl. Pope John Paul II and Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta

Ian Wintering

My journey that lead to where I am today didn’t really begin until I started going to Seton Catholic Preparatory High School. At the beginning of my senior year, one of my friends had been encouraging me to go on this retreat that Seton had twice a year. The retreat was called Kairos. I knew very little about the retreat so I thought that I might as well give it a shot. The impact this retreat had on me was indescribable. It was like a ton of bricks had fallen on top of me. I had never felt so loved by my parents and by God than I did when I came home from that retreat. For the first time I realized that God was thirsting for a personal relationship with me. I realized that my faith was the reason for living. It was after that retreat that I decided to take my faith seriously. It was also on these retreats that I first began to seriously consider my calling to the priesthood.

The summer after my freshman year in college, I felt like I need to talk to a priest. So I called my pastor, Fr. Will and made an appointment with him. I unloaded everything and told him how I felt. He then asked me if I would be willing to live in the rectory with him as a discernment process. I was so overwhelmed with joy. It wasn’t long after that that I had moved in, and began the application process. Every passing day my desire for the priesthood grows stronger. My love and desire for Christ has far surpassed any of my own ambitions. My prayer life, love for the eucharist, and love for the sacraments has never been stronger.

  • Parish: St. Mary Magdalene
  • High School: Seton Catholic Preparatory
  • Grade School: St.Timothy’s Catholic Academy
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Lady, St.John Bosco, St.Elizabeth Ann Seton, St.Padre Pio, St.Mary Magdalene

Arom Burgueño

Gabriel Sabado

At a very young age, I experienced a profound stirring in my heart, a peaceful joy that overcame every kind of fear, anxiety, or trouble that crossed my mind.  It was a seed of Christ’s hope planted deep within my soul, growing slowly beneath the surface.  I desired to help ease the pain and suffering of everyone I encountered, especially those within my own family.  During high school and college, I fell victim to the secular culture.  I abandoned my humble Catholic upbringing and relied on myself for success.  It wasn’t until many years later, that I realized I had a ‘God-shaped’ hole in my heart that only Jesus Christ could satisfy.  It was then that I began to hear again “the call” to share in Christ’s Priesthood.

Reflecting on my past, I now see how at every moment, especially when all hope seemed lost, God was always present.  He was patiently calling me back home to be in communion with Him.  Through the love and guidance of Our Blessed Mother Mary, I am convicted in my desire to entrust my life and vocation to Jesus, who has freely given up His life for love of me.  In receiving His gift of infinite mercy and love, I offer myself back to Him in joyful gratitude proclaiming, “Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will.”

  • Parish: St. Clare of Assisi
  • High School: Belleville High School (Belleville, Michigan)
  • Grade School: St. Anthony’s Academy (Belleville, Michigan)
  • Favorite Saint(s): The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. John Marie Vianney

Anthony Dang

I have had desires of becoming a priest ever since I was a little boy. When I was little, I would pretend to be a priest and give out Communion. When I started middle school, I stopped thinking about the priesthood. I was struggling in life at that time. Sometimes, I would feel depressed and empty. I was trying to find something that would fill my heart.

My life started to change in high school. During my freshman year of high school, my grandpa got into a car accident. That event prompted me to pray the rosary every day. A year later, something made me think about the priesthood again. One night, I decided to pray the rosary. Thoughts about the priesthood entered my mind. From then on, I decided to strive to become holy by praying more and helping out my parish. I started to feel better about myself. I realized God can fill up my emptiness.

However, I had trouble accepting that I could possibly be a priest. That changed when I went to a day of discernment retreat. Afterwards, I felt peace thinking about the priesthood. The next summer, I contacted the vocations director, Fr. Paul Sullivan. He helped me out by answering all of the questions I had. A couple of months later, I applied for the seminary and I got accepted. I am now entering my first year of seminary. I am excited for what God has in store for me in the future.

  • Parish: Resurrection
  • High School: McClintock High School
  • Grade School: Bustoz Elementary School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Anthony of Padua, St. Mary, St. Francis of Assisi, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Jesus Martinez

I was born in Cd. Obregon, Sonora, Mexico. I am the oldest of four children. My family and I migrated to the United States around 2003. We have resided in Phoenix, Arizona since then.

I graduated from Arizona State University on May of 2015. My desire to enter seminary began a few months after graduating. At that time, I was asking the Lord if it was okay to apply to law school. I decided to take a year off from my studies to remain in prayer and figure out if that was what God was calling me to do with my life. During that period of time I attended different retreats. I also started to attend daily mass. I feel like the Lord answer my question on December of 2015. During mass, at the moment of consecration, I felt a desire in my heart for the priesthood, which was something I had never thought of before. A few months later I met with Fr. Paul, our vocations director, and the Lord has led the way since then. I currently attend St. John Vianney Theological Seminary continuing to discern my vocation to holiness and priesthood.

  • Parish: St. Augustine
  • High School: St. Mary’s Catholic High School
  • Grade School: Silvestre S. Herrera
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Padre Pio, St. Giuseppe Moscati, St. John Vianney, St. John Paul II and St. Jose Sanchez del Rio

Abraham Davalos

I was born in South Pasadena, in California, and my family moved to Avondale, AZ, when I was thirteen years old. I graduated from Estrella Mountain community college and took some courses at Kino Catechetical institute. I first felt the call to priesthood when I was seventeen and still attended youth group at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear AZ. During this time, I was growing in my relationship with Jesus and I felt a fervent desire and attraction toward his sacred heart and a zeal to make his name known. I had two gifted mentors Matthew Gonzales and David Portugal that prepared me to become a youth minister right after high school. I was hired at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson AZ, I was blessed to serve four years there as youth minister. It was there that my faith was grounded even further in his sacred heart especially in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and my desire to seek out the priesthood became more profound. A few weeks into my second year at Blessed Sacrament I started meeting with Fr. Paul Sullivan to begin the discernment process and apply to be a seminarian. This is my first year as a seminarian and I am currently in the spirituality year in St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

  • Parish: Blessed Sacrament (Tolleson)
  • High school: Agua Fria High school
  • Grade school: El Sereno Middle School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Damien of Molokai, St. Maximillian Kolbe St. Giuseppe Moscati, St. John Vianney, St. John Paul II, and St. Jose Sanchez del Rio

Andrew Olson

Being raised without religion, I began my search for God around middle school. Every step that I took to find something fulfilling beyond myself led me closer and closer to Jesus until He made Himself clearly known to me in the Blessed Sacrament at the end of high school. I knew then that any step of growth I could take would lead to the Church.

After going through RCIA, I received all of my sacraments at the All Saints Newman Center at Arizona State University on the Easter Vigil of 2014. Despite the comfort in my new life, the Lord began to draw more and more of my attention to the priesthood, less than a year after I was confirmed. Because of my recent conversion, applying to seminary right away felt a little rushed, but I was advised to start talking to Fr. Paul Sullivan to continue my discernment. The following year and a half was very trying and painful. As I approached my application, I found myself wanting nothing to do with my faith anymore. I considered my situation hopeless and lost all desire to continue my discernment. In prayer, Jesus asked if I still trusted Him. Because I wanted to trust Him more, I decided to recommit to my application and follow what I was given. My life completely brightened again as the Lord rekindled the joy that I had neglected. After a long and fruitful application, I was accepted in May of 2017.

My desire for faith and priesthood all began with a genuine request in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament: “Lord, I just want to understand.”  Since beginning seminary at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, I have never been happier.

  • Parish: All Saints Newman Center, ASU
  • High School: Glendale Preparatory Academy
  • Grade School: Copper Creek Elementary
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Charbel Makhlouf, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. John Paul the Great

Miguel Solis

I am Miguel Angel Solis Ramirez and I was born on September 27 1987 in La Piedad, Michoacán, Mexico. My family is Catholic and my parents Roberto and Bibiana were married by the Catholic Church. I am the youngest out of six children, one sister named Eva and four brothers named Rogelio, Rigoberto, Gustavo and Javier. I was baptized on January 10, 1988. My parents brought me to the United States on January of 2000 just after I turned twelve years old.

I started to think more about priesthood after an encounter with Bishop Nevares who encouraged me to join the seminary. Taking this as a sing from God after three years, I decided to go to seminary. I am excited because of the Lord’s call and I hope to be a faithful and a simple instrument of His grace.

  • Parish: St. Matthew Catholic Church
  • High School: Central High School
  • Grade School: Vina Danks Middle School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. John Vianney, St. John Paul II and St. Augustine

Dominic Bui

Growing up in an active Catholic family, I have always heard, “You should be a priest when you grow up.” I always shrugged it off whenever I hear this when I was younger. During my Junior year in high school, I made my Kairos retreat. That retreat was an eye opener for me as I had felt the love of God through everyone. Through that retreat, the thought of being a priest entered my mind, but this thought felt different. I felt calm and a peace of mind through it. Praying on this thought, it became stronger like a desire or a calling. I contacted Fr. Paul Sullivan that summer of 2013, and throughout the rest of the year, I would talk to Fr. Paul whenever he visited Notre Dame Preparatory. I eventually filled out the forms the Diocese needed and I was accepted.

There are times where I think, ” I don’t understand. Why me of all the people? If God is calling me, why me? I don’t understand you God.” Of course I don’t understand Him. After all, from the words of a wise person, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I just need to trust in God’s will for me and I know I will be all right.

  • Parish: Vietnamese Martyrs Parish
  • High School: Notre Dame Preparatory High School
  • Grade School: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Glendale
  • Favorite Saint(s): Sr. Yolanda Mendoza, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Dominic Savio, St. Dominic de Guzmán, St. Francis Xavier

Noah Minton

I grew up as the middle child between two sisters, and the son of two zealous catholic parents. I lived in the same house in old town Scottsdale for my entire childhood, and went Veritas High School. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve formed a great respect and interest for the ways that God introduces beauty in our lives, especially in the visual arts and music. I’ve also always had a great love for physical activity and being outdoors. I found myself playing any sport I could find when I was younger, and some of my favorites became soccer, football, wrestling, and rugby. By the time I started high school, all of my interests dragged me in tons of different directions, and I was always very busy with all of the different activities that I was involved with. It often seemed, however, that I spent much of my time with different Catholic communities throughout Arizona. I was able to experience the joy and humanity of the priesthood from a very early age. My faith has been constant, and foundational in my life for as long as I can remember, and I believe that this is greatly attributed to my parents. They did something for my sisters and I that I believe is not incredibly common among catholic families today, and that was helping us to form a personal relationship with Christ. A personal relationship with the Lord is not one that easily fades, and in my case, it has helped me to know God’s voice, and discern a call to the priesthood.

  • Parish: St. Maria Goretti
  • High School: Veritas Preparatory Academy
  • Grade School: Ville de Marie Academy
  • Favorite Saint(s): Maximilian Kolbe, Pope John Paul the Great, Maria Goretti, Juan Diego, Peter, Anthony of Padua, Joseph

Nathan Blanchard

Among the more distinct memories of my childhood is that of playing ‘mass.’  My grandma had sewn dress-up vestments for me, and when I turned five my parents made me a clay paten and chalice to play with.  Although I really had no idea what the Mass even was at the time, it was this early pastime and encouragement which planted the seed of discernment.  If you had asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have responded by saying either an astronaut, or a priest.

I grew up in a loud family of eight, and all six of us kids were homeschooled from preschool through high school.  The year I turned seven we moved from our home in Gilbert, Arizona, where we were members of St. Anne’s parish, up to the northern reaches of the diocese, settling in Flagstaff, AZ, and the parish of San Francisco de Asis.  It was there that I did the majority of my growing up among the predominately protestant homeschoolers in the area.  Because of our Catholic Faith, my family and I stuck out.  There was no room for me to be lukewarm and so I did my best, with the help of my steadfast parents and older siblings, to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ.

When I was going into seventh grade, my older sister joined the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, and I suddenly became aware that the idea of a vocation was one I had to give some serious thought to.  Through God’s providence, I had the opportunity that same year to go on a week-long retreat, during which I felt God asking me to consider the priesthood.  Recalling my early memories, this idea came again to the forefront of my mind until I finally realized that the priesthood really was the vocation I wanted to pursue.

  • Parish: San Francisco de Asis
  • High School: Homeschooled
  • Grade School: Homeschooled
  • Favorite Saint(s):

Andrew Geerling

I grew up in a Catholic family which was active in my parish.  I never thought about the priesthood until my junior year of high school, when I began making time for a holy hour.  As I prayed, the idea of a priestly vocation kept reoccurring.  Later in the year I attended a St. Andrew’s Dinner and met several seminarians, which helped remove my fears of seminary. The next couple of months of prayer and discernment, before I contacted the vocations director, Fr. Paul Sullivan.  He answered most of my questions about discernment and I went through the diocesan seminarian application; that summer I went into my first year of minor seminary.

  • Parish: St. Elizabeth Seton
  • High School: Seton Home Study
  • Grade School: Seton Home Study
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Theresa of Calcutta, and St. Louis

Simon Ortiz

Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.

When I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a professional baseball player and I remember telling my mother, “Mom if there is ever a shortage of Priests, I will leave my baseball career and go to seminary!” The funny thing is, my baseball days ended in middle school and God’s will for my life became more evident later on down the road. During my sophomore year of high school, I attended the Diocese Multi-Parish retreat in Williams. On this retreat, I had my first thought that going to seminary could be a serious possibility. Towards the end of senior year, I found myself going to daily adoration and having a desire to know Christ and his church in a more intimate way through his Blessed Mother. It was during those Holy Hours that the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to God’s call to the Priesthood even more. In June of 2017, I was accepted as a seminarian and it has been one of the biggest blessing I have received from the Lord. As I enter Seminary formation, I am determined to learn even more about Christ, his church, and his saints. I will follow Christ and trust in his will as his Mother did. For the only way to achieve true happiness is to die to self each and every day and to choose the Lord’s will over our own always.

  • Parish: St. Maria Goretti
  • High School: Saguaro High School
  • Grade School: Pueblo Elementary, Mohave Middle School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St.Maximilian Kolbe, St. Maria Goretti, St. Michael, St. Joseph, St. Jude, St. Peter

Erik Ochoa

I am Erik Javier Ochoa Amaya, and I was born in Hermosillo, Mexico, on June 8th, 1999. I’m the second child out five, my four brothers are Victor, Andres, Pablo, and Alfonso. My parents are Francisco Ochoa and Flora Amaya who are still happily married. I came to the United States and was raised most of my life here. The four things I’ve studied most in my life are these things (in order): Catholicism, baseball, comics, Star Wars, and books. Those five things pretty much describe most of what I love.

Growing up I always wanted to get married, I was blessed to have my parents show the beauty of marriage to me. This desire would continue until the end of Sophomore year in high school, when I attended a retreat at my parish. It was there I first felt the calling of the priesthood. I didn’t take it too seriously, though I did take as a wake-up call to follow the path of holiness. Junior year, I really focused on getting back to the road of holiness. Senior year was when I really started to discern seriously of my vocation to the priesthood. I would meet with Fr. Paul, but more often I was blessed and fortunate to have Fr. Bolding and Mr. Ayala from St. Mary’s High School to help me discern. Currently, I am here in the seminary, continuing to discern my vocation to holiness and priesthood. I have whole list of people sent me in my life that have helped me and are still helping me on this journey.

  • Home Parish: St. John Vianney
  • High School: Saint Mary’s High School
  • Grade School: Cheatham Elementary, Dunbar Elementary, and Pendergast Elementary
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Blessed Mother, St. Augustine, St. Daniel the Prophet, St. Rose of Lima, Bl. Miguel Pro, St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, St. Faustina, St. Pope John II, St. Mother Teresa, and St. Padre Pio

Marc Malovoz

Marc Malovoz was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1999 and then moved to Arizona with his parents and four sisters when he was four years old.  Marc’s parents, Christian and Gretchen Malovoz, fostered in him a love for the Catholic faith from the beginning of his life and were his first examples of how to live a life in Christ.  Along with his four sisters Marc was primarily home educated.  Home schooling gave him the opportunity to frequently participate in the Mass as an altar serve at his home parish of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gilbert.  It was through a frequent reception of the sacraments that he began to experience the call to the priesthood.  The Diocese of Phoenix is blessed to have many priests who joyfully live out their vocation; Marc was influenced greatly by the joy and dedication that many priests live out daily.  Marc also enjoys playing the piano.  He took formal lessons for nine years and learned to apply himself by working hard at perfecting this skill.  Also, staying physically active is very important to him and he enjoys swimming and playing soccer.  Marc encourages all men and women to follow in the words of Christ and to not be afraid to answer their vocation that God wills for them.

  • Parish:
  • High School:
  • Grade School:
  • Favorite Saint(s):

Peter Lukaszewski

I was born April 14th, 1999 as the fourth of what is now nine children. My family has always been a source of hope and joy for me even amidst the quarreling and craziness. God can speak to us through others and looking back at the joy and beauty of my life so far, I find that every moment of happiness and beauty was just God speak to me of his beauty and goodness. One of my earliest memories of even considering a vocation to the priesthood was playing “mass” with my brothers and sisters using crackers and grape juice. My brother Chris and I discovered early on how useful our bunk bed was for talking about the mysteries of life late at night. I had the top bunk so I got to lean half my body over the edge of the bed to ask him questions that I had thought up while lying in the darkness pondering with my little 8-year-old mind. He shared my curiosity and love of learning. Together we would zoom through books devouring the stories in them. They were usually fantasy books because we loved to read them. I couldn’t put to words back then what it was in those books that attracted me but I know now that it is real love. It is the true sacrificial love of the characters in these books, as they are thrown by circumstance into this fight of good and evil and yet choose to give of themselves to save those they love and those who could not defend themselves, that captured my imagination and heart. I read these books because they resonated with my desire for “the more”. Deep within each of us is this desire to live for something other than ourselves and even then I was feeling it.

I was raised Catholic and learned a lot in my 13 years of Catholic school but until the summer of my Freshman year of high school, my faith was murky and confusing. I had seen love. I had seen beauty. I had been taught truth but I had not yet seen what was behind these. It was an aimless faith. During Saturday night adoration at a Steubenville Conference in Tuscon that summer, I finally came to understand what “the more” that I desired was. It was there that I first really gazed upon the Eucharist with intention and I suddenly just knew… I knew what we mean when we say the body of Christ. In that moment I realized I was in the presence of God and that he loves me unconditionally. Here was Love, here was Truth, here was Beauty. Here was what my heart burned for. Even more than that, here was a person who loved me so much that He had created me from nothing for no other reason than that he loved me. Existing out of time, He had seen every sin I have committed and will ever commit, and yet He still loves me and created me despite that. He had come down and taken on “the form of a slave” and died on that cross for the whole world but also in that moment he had died specifically for me. As He cried out “Father forgive them!…” he was thinking of me and my sins. You would think that this would be enough, the giving of his very own life but it wasn’t. He wants to give more. At the Last Supper, He gave us his body so that he would always be with us until the end of time. In every Catholic church and chapel around the world, right now, he is waiting for me personally just to see me and to be with me. Here was God Himself. All of this went through my head as I knelt there gazing on Him whom I had just found knowing that he gazed back.

This one moment has defined much of the last 4 years of my life. I have been to mass nearly every day in that time and because of it, my joy and love have only increased. This is getting long so, long story short, as I grew in relationship with my Lord and my time at Bourgade neared its end, I began to ask myself what I wanted to do with my life and an altogether more difficult question: what does He want me to do? I have discovered that there is no easy answer. Marriage is beautiful and so is the priesthood. Both require that total giving of self, that true love. I knew that the love that I have received from Him who calls to me is a love that I cannot keep to myself, no matter what my vocation turns out to be. I am now a seminarian after much prayer and many adoration hours and one more moment of grace. On Bourgade’s Kairos retreat last February, I was serving as one of the retreat leaders and it happened that I was to be the altar server to follow Fr. Kurt around the dark room with a candle as he took the Eucharist in the monstrance from person to person. It was a moment of the Holy Spirit outpouring into that room and I got to see it all. I saw the anguish, gratitude, love and deep contrition upon the faces of my classmates as Christ himself was brought before them. I was watching Christ come to people. I was in my own way bringing Christ to others lighting the way for him. It was in this moment that I lost all my reservations about never having a family of my own or of the difficulty of the work because I saw that and said to myself, “That is what I am called to do. I want to bring Christ to his people in the way only priests can.

  • Parish: Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral
  • High School: Bourgade Catholic
  • Grade School: OLPH Glendale and St. Catherine of Siena
  • Favorite Saint(s): Pope Saint John Paul the Second (JPII whoop whoop!), St. Padre Pio, St. Peter, Blessed Miguel Pro, St. Maria Goretti, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of Calcutta

Victor Fructuoso Bravo

I want to credit my desire to be a priest to Mary, Most Holy Mother of God:  The Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It was she who brought me closer to her son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  My deep devotion to her made me realize that I could not simply love her without loving her son.  During my consecration to her Immaculate Heart, I experienced for the first time a true desire of becoming a priest.  After several years of discerning (in prayer) and asking God what He wanted for me, I made the decision to enter the seminary and to consider Mary as the mother of my vocation.  With her guidance, and Christ’s love, I hope to serve others.  With God’s Will, I — Victor H. Fructuoso B. — will become a priest of Christ.

  • Home Parish: St. Augustine
  • High School: Independence High School
  • Grade School: 
  • Favorite saints: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the cross, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Jesus de la Torre

I was born in Long Beach, CA, in 1998 and lived there up until I finished Kindergarten. From there, my family moved to Laveen, AZ, and we have lived there for about 14 years now. My family consists of my mom, dad, older sister, and younger brother. My mom, Maria, was born in a small town in Mexico called Totatiche, and my dad, also Jesus, was born in Zacatecas, Mexico. My older sister, Sandra, was also born in Long Beach and is currently attending ASU. My younger bother, Miguel Angel, was born here in Phoenix and is in 4th grade. I attended Betty H. Fairfax High School and am currently attending the great Pontificial College Josephinum.

Since the end of high school was fast approaching, I began thinking about my life after high and I came up with a couple ideas. First, there was the option of joining the missionaries from my parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and do missions with them. There was also the possibility of going to college, a couple choices including South Mountain, NAU, and Benedictine. From these previous possibilities, the idea of the priesthood developed because of my desire to serve the people as well as my interest in philosophy and theology. This ongoing decision to join the seminary really strengthened when I attended a pre-vocational retreat, funny enough hosted by the missionaries from my parish, and from there I decided to go with what God had in store for me!

  • Parish: St. Vincent de Paul
  • High School: Betty H. Fairfax High School
  • Grade School: Magnet Traditional School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Maria Goretti