Dcn. Kevin Penkalski

  • 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

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.

Dcn. Estevan Wetzel

  • 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

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.

Nathaniel Glenn

  • 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

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.

Marvin Soto

  • 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.

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.

Gabriel Terrill

  • 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

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.

Ian Wintering

  • 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

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.

Anthony Dang

  • 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

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.

Harold Escarcega

  • 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

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).

Gabriel Sabado

  • 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

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.”

Abraham Davalos

  • 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

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.

Jesus Martinez

  • 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

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.

Andrew Olson

  • 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

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.

Andrew Ausi

  • Parish: St. Daniel the Prophet
  • High School: Mesquite High School
  • Grade School: Oaktree Elementary / Gilbert Jr. High
  • Favorite Saint(s): Sts. Francis and Claire, Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, King David

I was born in Detroit in March 1992 and moved to Arizona when I was 9 years old with my family. I grew up Eastern Rite in the Chaldean Church, but I am now discerning with the Diocese of Phoenix. I think I’m blessed to have grown up Eastern Rite because I love Eastern spirituality. 

I felt called the priesthood since I was 7 years old at Palm Sunday Mass 1999, and ever since then my desire for priesthood has been pretty strong. I am looking forward to priesthood and to be able to serve the Church by ministering the sacraments. Thank you for reading my bio. Pray for me to be a good priest, please.

Joshua Baldwin

  • Parish: St. Rose Philippine Duschene
  • High School: Homeschool
  • Grade School: Homeschool
  • Favorite Saint(s): Mary, St. John Paul II, St. Joan of Arc, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Anselm, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Rose, St. Gertrude, St. Padre Pio, St. John Vianney, St. Jude, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Louise de Montfort, Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Being raised in a Protestant home, I grew up with a deep love for God and a deep desire to know God in an intimate and personal way and to make him known. As devout Baptists, our family’s life revolved around church and I memorized thousands of Scripture verses.

During college, I began to develop a deep sense that my faith, although vibrant, was missing some key ingredients that were vitally necessary. I gradually realized that I had no way of knowing if my interpretation of Scripture was correct in light of the multiplicity of conflicting interpretations of Scripture that Protestantism creates. God was guiding me home to the Catholic Church; and his real and true presence soon became unmistakably clear in the Blessed Sacrament and through the ministry of the Church. After much prayer and study, I began RCIA and was received into full communion with the Church during the 2015 Easter Vigil at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at ASU. 

During this time, I began to sense the Lord calling me to the priesthood. I graduated with a bachelor’s in computer science and began an enjoyable career in software development, but I sensed God calling me to something deeper and more profound. I began meeting with Fr. Paul Sullivan to consider the possibility of a religious vocation, and after much additional prayer and discernment and openness to the Holy Spirit, I applied and began seminary at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. I am grateful to God for bringing me here, and I am looking forward to seeing where God takes me next in my walk with him!

Dominic Bui

  • 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

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.

Nicholas Chasse

  • Parish: All Saints Newman Center, St. Timothy
  • High School: All Saints Catholic Secondary School (Whitby, Ontario), Dobson High School
  • Grade School: Coral Street Elementary (State College, PA), St. Bridget Elementary School (Brooklin, Ontario)
  • Favorite Saint(s): Maximilian Kolbe, Maria Gorreti, St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux

I was born in New Haven, Connecticut as the second of four children. After moving to Pennsylvania and Toronto, Canada, my family came to Arizona in August of 2011. When we came to Arizona, I had a disposition of openness to anything that would call me closer to God after a desperate prayer of healing for one of my close friends was answered.

My family came to St. Timothy and instantly fell in love with the community. I was especially surprised to see others my age who were excited about their faith. Through the friends I met there, I had the opportunity of becoming involved in Lifeteen and Saint Paul’s Outreach at ASU. During my time with SPO, during my last semester at ASU, I heard a call that brought immense peace. 

As we prayed Morning Prayer together, we were singing praise to God and the word “priesthood” came into my mind. I thought that this was peculiar as nobody had spoken to me about priesthood for a long time. My heart was at peace, my mind was focused on God, and this word came out of the blue; it must have been God. Since I have entered seminary, it seems to me that God has given me consolation in this vocation, and I am excited for whatever our Lord has in store for me.

Jacob Chavez

  • Parish: St. Mary Magdalene
  • High School: Campo Verde High School
  • Grade School: Settlers Point Elementary School
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Peter, St. Mary, St. Joseph, St. JPII, St. Therese of Lisieux

I was born into a Catholic family with devout parents who took me and my siblings to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. My father taught me the Catechism. I did not dive deep into my faith until my Junior year of high school where I went to youth group for the very first time. I went on a retreat and it was in Adoration that I heard God call me to the priesthood. In fear, I said no. I eventually became a youth group core team member for junior high students and it was there that the calling kept coming into my head. I started going to Adoration more often as well as asking for Mary’s intercession through the Rosary. I talked to joyful priests about the calling and eventually came to Fr. Paul Sullivan, the vocations director for the Diocese of Phoenix. I went to a come-and-see weekend at a seminary, and it was a confirmation that I was supposed to be there. After much prayer, thought, peace, and conversations with many family and friends, I sent in an application and was accepted. Being here at the seminary, I look back on my life through prayer and realize many events in my life have been leading me to this and that it is only by the will of God that I am here.

Connor Companik

  • Parish: St. Benedict
  • High School: Seton Catholic Preparatory High School
  • Grade School: St. John Bosco
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Lady of Guadalupe, Luke, John, Cecilia, Thérèse of Lisieux

From a very young age, I’ve had a particular interest in many things related to the Catholic faith. I wasn’t always engaged in mass, nor did I always enjoy it when we went, but I always felt some connection to the liturgy, and the different feast days and seasons. This closeness to the liturgy has been a huge driving force in my discernment, and in bringing me to the seminary.

The first seeds of discernment were planted in my Junior year of high school when I experienced the Triduum liturgy (Holy Thursday/Good Friday/Easter Vigil) for the first time. That was one of the first times I felt completely engaged in mass, and more importantly in Jesus’ Paschal Mystery—in his life, death, and resurrection. The following weekend I went for the first time on our school’s Kairos retreat, which opened me up to a lot of things, and in a way “confirmed” the work God had begun the week before. One of the alumnus leaders of that retreat was a close friend of mine, Ian Wintering, and near the end of the retreat he announced to all of us that he was leaving for seminary the following semester. That was one of the first times I seriously considered the idea of priesthood. And ever since that retreat, I’ve had in some form a desire for the priesthood.

In college I was hesitant to make any official moves towards discernment. I felt I couldn’t do anything until there was a concrete and obvious call for me to apply to seminary. This continued until the summer after my sophomore year at ASU, when a few of my friends invited me to the diaconate ordinations that year. At that mass, I felt God speak to me clearly. It took place on the Sunday of Corpus Christi, and the psalm response was, “You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.” I remember that verse going through my head for weeks. That same summer I met up with Ian Wintering for the first time since he had left for seminary. He told me he had heard I visited St. John Vianney, and proceeded to ask if I was discerning seminary. I responded “yes” almost instinctively, and although that day was more than two years ago now, my journey has still only just begun. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to serve the diocese, and I appreciate all the spiritual support and prayers I’ve received so far, as I continue to discern God’s will for me.

Miguel Solis

  • 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

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.

Nathan Blanchard

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

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.

Benjamin Byrom

  • Parish: Holy Spirit Newman Center
  • High School: Lutheran High School of San Diego, San Diego, CA
  • Grade School: Heartland Christian School, San Diego, CA
  • Favorite Saint(s): Mary, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Francis de Sales, St. Faustina

I am grateful to be a convert to the Catholic Church, and I became Catholic while I was very active in the Holy Spirit Newman Center for Grand Canyon University and the GCU Catholic club. I was immensely blessed by the ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit through the rest of my years at GCU, and I also had the honor of serving as the president of the GCU Catholic club.

Shortly after being received into the Church at SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral, many of my friends began telling me that I would be a great priest. At the same, I felt an internal desire for the priesthood as well. The encouragement of my friends motivated me to begin seriously discerning the priesthood. I discussed my discernment with the Franciscan friars at the Newman Center, and they were very supportive as well. Not long after this, I was altar serving a Eucharistic procession at an event hosted by the friars. I was carrying the incense and following the priest as he brought Jesus up close to each person. From that unique vantage point, I could see the immense joy and love in peoples’ eyes as they looked up at Jesus in the Eucharist. I was greatly moved by this, and it made me feel even more drawn to the priesthood, to be used by Jesus to provide the Eucharist to His people. I am so grateful all the blessings of the past few years which have lead me to seminary, to God be the glory!

Andrew Harrah

  • Parish: St. Timothy
  • High School: Sonora High School
  • Grade School: Alderwood Basics Plus
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Augustine of Hippo

I moved to the greater Phoenix area in June of 2015 from Southern California to become a teacher of ancient and medieval history at Lincoln Preparatory Academy, a school within the Great Hearts Academies public charter network. My enlisted military contract with the Marine Corps had ended in November of 2014 and, with it, my former desire to pursue a career as an officer. My mental energies and time were almost entirely consumed by lesson planning. I lived alone, it was a difficult year, but teaching gave me a certain amount of delight and a sense of fulfillment. It was during the second academic year (2016-2017), while in CA on Christmas break and in prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, that I decided I would finally apply for priestly formation with the Diocese of Phoenix. The thought of the priesthood had emerged and had begun to grow upon my formal entrance into the Catholic Church in 2013, but for various reasons I did not act upon it. I started the application process upon my return, and was accepted by the Diocese in May of 2017. 

I chose, however, to not move forward with applying to St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. I chose instead to pursue a relationship with a woman I had met in the adoration chapel. We dated for several months, but like in previous relationships, I felt that there was a part of me that I could not give away and thoughts of the priesthood reemerged. I spoke with Fr. Paul Sullivan again in the beginning of 2018 about possibly getting back on the seminary track while also sharing with him that there was a woman I worked with who interested me. I chose to date this woman from work, but in the midst of the joy and satisfaction she brought into my life, I could not shake this sense that God was calling me to the priesthood. I therefore made the decision to move forward with the application to the seminary as an act of faith, trusting that God would make His will clear as I proceeded. I would then offer back to God, in some small measure, the effects of His own divine generosity in my life. And in so doing, I would be thanking Him.

Noah Minton

  • 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

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.

Jeff Pooley

  • Parish: Sacred Heart (Prescott), Corpus Christi
  • High School: Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Riverside, CA)
  • Grade School: Martin Luther King High School (Riverside, CA)
  • Favorite Saint(s): JPII, Fulton Sheen, Mother Teresa

Growing up, my faith was very much “cultural.” I knew we were Catholic and that it was important, but I couldn’t tell you why. It was there, it was real, but it had no depth. Freshman year of college, while off by myself for the first time, things began to change. This is the time in many peoples’ lives when they reject the faith in some way and become rebellious. I wasn’t much different. I started skipping Mass, for no reason other than laziness, yet I still called myself a nice Catholic guy. I would defend the Church Monday through Saturday and then reject her on Sunday. I then looked at myself and saw the hypocrite that I was. How could I tell anyone else that the Church was right about anything if I wasn’t living it out in my own life? I started studying the faith and attending Mass in order to see what we really believed. 

I started delving into as many Catholic things as I could because I had developed a great desire to grow in the faith. I looked for places to interact with other Catholics my age, but unfortunately there was nothing within 100 miles except youth ministry. I remember saying to God in frustration, “No! I don’t want to serve. I want to be served!” I was shaken by my own words. I realized that God was leading me where I had not wanted to go, but where He wanted me to go. I started serving in youth ministry, which I did for the next three years. God used this time to bestow so many graces on me. Through priests and the sacraments, God opened for me a deeper world in the life of the Church.

I’ve always been amazed by the extravagant and ‘big’ vocation stories of others, because my story sounds nothing like that. Mine is the story of a patient God who nudges a stubborn mule along. The first nudge came at a young age. I remember being drawn to the Eucharist. I was excited for my first communion and I remember thinking that I wanted to receive the Eucharist always. As an altar server, I can remember being in awe of the priest and of what he was doing. Then little league and relationships came into the picture and the story might have seemed to end there, but God is faithful. I was weeks from graduating high school when the religious order who had run our parish since I was in the second grade prepared to go back to Spain. One of the older Spanish priests was retiring, but what they had not told us was that he actually had cancer and was going home to die near his family. I couldn’t even recall a single word he had ever said, yet I sat in a pew and cried for this man. His witness of going to a foreign land to lay down his life for his people had impacted my life. I remember just hearing God whisper to my heart “I could be calling you to lay down your life the same way.” I was in shock. I had a plan for my life. I was going off to school. I was going to make money and have a family. 

Four years later I was living with my friend who was discerning a religious vocation. Everyone kept saying we both should become priests. He was already saying yes and I was saying no. I told myself that I was too deep into my career. I felt that there was no turning back. While pursuing multiple new career paths, God continued to be faithful. He put many holy people, especially priests, in my life. I continued to grow in the faith again and ended up back in my home town where a group of Dominican friars served. I started meeting with a priest who truly loves like Jesus and I became attracted to the priesthood yet again. Unfortunately, I felt that no one would consider me because of my debt. So I pushed forward in my career trying to ignore the call, but it was all I could think about. One day I decided I had to reach out to the vocation director of Phoenix. I knew in the blink of an eye that I couldn’t hide this desire anymore. God had been lovingly calling me for so long. I felt God was calling me by name for Himself and for His Church. How could I resist a second longer!

Christian Racco

  • Parish: St. Timothy
  • High School: Seton Catholic Preparatory High School
  • Grade School: St. Mary-Basha
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux, Padre Pio, St. John Paul II

I was raised in a Catholic family in which the faith has always been a part of my life. Saint Timothy’s has been my home parish for as long as I can remember. I was also blessed to have received a Catholic education first at St. Mary-Basha School and then at Seton High School. Over the years, various people have told me that I would make a good priest or that I should consider the priesthood, but I never gave it much thought. In my twenties, I was introduced to apologetics, mainly through Immaculate Heart Radio, and developed a much deeper appreciation for my Catholic faith. Once I turned thirty, my heart became increasingly restless with the desire to know my vocation and the idea that I was meant for something more. This desire grew stronger over the next few years, and in the spring of 2018, I was once again told by someone that I should consider the priesthood.

In all honesty, I did not want to hear these words, but in my heart I knew that I could no longer put off seriously discerning a call to the priesthood. I began taking it to prayer every day and later reached out to Father Sullivan. He walked me through the process and advised me of what I would need to do to apply as a seminarian. Over the next year, I went back to school and made preparations to attend seminary in 2019. 

Andrew Geerling

  • 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

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.

Juan Carlos Briones

  • Parish: St. Catherine of Siena
  • High School: Cesar Chavez High School
  • Grade School: Southwest Elementary
  • Favorite Saint(s): Pope St. Pius X, St. Maria Goretti, St.Louis de Montfort, St. Joseph

“I do not know of any condition of man, any state of life, which gives such immediate access to so many people of all kinds, as does the Catholic priesthood.”

That was certainly my experience of the priesthood as I was growing up in St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Phoenix, AZ. The priests of our parish were universally admired by parishioners young and old, rich and poor alike. Even from a young age, I recognized that people went to our priests “in situations of suffering, of illness, of death, of problems in the family,” but that our priests were also with us when we celebrated our first Sacraments in the Church, our academic achievements in school, and our triumphs on the athletic fields. They were indeed “our priests.” We knew they belonged to us, and that they allowed us to have a claim on them.

I knew, too, that it is the priest alone who stands in the person of Christ, and makes our Lord sacramentally present for His people. It is the priest, as spiritual father, who gives Christians new birth in Baptism, who feeds and nourishes them in the Eucharist, who forgives their sins and anoints them in their illnesses. I felt a deep desire to give my life to the Lord so that through me He could be present to all His people, in all these situations and more.

I never avoided the notion of a vocation to religious life or the priesthood. Where others might have been nervous, I was intrigued. And, when thinking about my future, I naturally pondered if priesthood was my calling. It struck me then, as it does now, that every Catholic youth should instinctively be open to, and not afraid of, a calling to religious life and the priesthood. It is a great life – full of meaning and purpose.

Thomas Cox

  • Parish: St. Mary Magdalene
  • High School: Williams Field High School
  • Grade School: Edu-Prize
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Michael, St. John Paul II, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John Vianney, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Venerable Michael J. McGivney

I was born in 1998 in St. Louis, Missouri. We moved out to Gilbert shortly afterward in 1999, and we have been here ever since. I have one younger brother who is 2 1/2 years younger than me. From the time we moved to Arizona until about 7th or 8th grade, my family attended St. Anne’s. My parents made it a point that we went to Mass every Saturday. I also went to religious education throughout elementary school and youth group in junior high and high school. It was while at St. Anne’s that I had my first thoughts of a vocation. My biggest example was Fr. Stephen Adrian. From the youngest age I could remember, I wanted to be exactly like him. However, as I grew older, the thought of priesthood faded in my mind. I would still altar serve every week, and when I was able to, at 16, I started volunteering at our parish as an EM. For most of my life, I instead wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. I pursued that most of my life. I was in AFJROTC in high school, hoping that I could follow that dream. In my junior year of high school, our high school youth group had a Kairos retreat, and that’s where I completely fell in love with the faith. I started to discern seriously that year, but I was still following my plan of joining the Air Force. My senior year of high school though, our pastor, Fr. Will Schmid and another priest, Fr. Ken Nielson started to do discernment dinners at our parish. I would attend those, and that is when I started to discern even more so than before. I was lucky that Fr. Will was able to take some of us to a live-in retreat at the Josephinum. I loved that, but I knew it wasn’t what God wanted for me at the time. After I graduated, my family and I went to Italy for our summer vacation, and while at the Vatican, my want for the priesthood increased even more. I attended Embry-Riddle in Prescott for college for a year and did aerospace engineering and attended Air Force ROTC. I was never truly happy that year though, and I found out part of the way through the year, that I couldn’t be a pilot in the Air Force. After that and talking with Fr. Will and Fr. Paul Sullivan multiple times, I knew that I for sure wanted to go to seminary. Ever since starting seminary, I’ve been happier than I’ve been ever before. I know that this is the place where God wants me now. I know that as long as I continue to say yes to God, I will always be the happiest I can be, and I hope that one day I’ll be able to be a priest, serving him with my whole life.

Victor Fructuoso

  • Parish: St. Augustine
  • High School: 
  • Grade School:
  • Favorite Saint(s):

Peter Lukaszewski

  • 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

I was born April 14, 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.

Erik Ochoa

  • 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

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.

Simon Ortiz

  • 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

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.

Roberto Huerta

  • Parish: St. John Vianney
  • High School: St. Mary’s Catholic High School
  • Grade School: St. John Vianney
  • Favorite Saint(s): Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, St. Augustine, St. Joseph, St. Thérèse of Lisieux

I ended up going to St. Mary’s Catholic high school and that’s when people asked me about the priesthood. I had teachers ask me if I had ever considered the priesthood, and I said no and that it wasn’t for me. I put the idea of the priesthood in the back of my mind and said I’ll probably think about it senior year. I ended up dating and just carrying on with my normal life until junior year of high school. That’s when it all happened. My girlfriend and I broke up, and my little teenage world fell apart. At that point I decided to work on myself and to be a better man, so I ended up going on the Kairos retreat that St. Mary’s had for juniors. It was there before the Lord in adoration where He spoke to me in the silence of my heart and said, “When are you going to stop running?” I thought to myself, “What am I running from?” Immediately, the Lord revealed to me in the depths of my heart the idea of the priesthood. 

The summer before senior year I decided to go on a Steubenville Conference. It was during adoration when the Lord spoke to me again in the silence of my heart. I had my eyes closed and the Lord simply said, “Be not afraid.” I had no idea what he meant by that. I began to try and ponder the simple phrase. As I had my eyes closed, the priest had processed closer to me with the monstrance holding our Lord. I finally opened my eyes and the Lord and I were face-to-face. He looked at me and simply said, “Come follow me”. The two phrases together made perfect sense, “Be not afraid, come follow me.” 

I knew going into my senior year of high school that I couldn’t run away anymore. I had to face the Lord and either say yes or no to the invitation He had called me to. I said yes to the Lord, because with Christ you lose nothing at all, but gain everything.

Anderson Johnson

  • Parish: St. Mary Magdalene
  • High School: Basha High School
  • Grade School: Patterson Elementary, Payne Junior High
  • Favorite Saint(s): Blessed Mother, St. Augustine, St. Padre Pio

Unlike my diocesan brothers, my vocation story is more direct. The Lord first called me to discern my vocation during my sophomore year of high school. Before then, I understood that being Catholic was important, but it was not very significant in my life. I went to Mass, did religious education, received all my sacraments, was an altar server and master of ceremonies, went to my parish’s youth group, etc., and yet I was not happy with my life and soon lost focus on the Lord. Throughout junior high and high school, I started to get into some deep and serious sin. 

When the Good Shepherd asked me to follow Him by discerning my vocation, I also had a conversion of heart; I realized that my unhappiness was because I had turned my gaze from God and onto my own desires. I was scared at first, but with the help of my pastor and the vocations director, I realized that God sometimes calls the inadequate to be the greatest examples of His mercy. I immediately said ‘yes’ to the calling, and I haven’t looked back since! 

Some advice I received from a priest that I would like to share to any one who is discerning their vocation is this: stay close to the Eucharist by perhaps doing a weekly Holy Hour in Adoration, have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother (I recommend St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion), and reading Sacred Scripture with the Liturgy of the Hours. God bless, and know you are in my prayers!

Valentin Rodriguez

  • Parish: Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • High School: St. Mary’s High School
  • Grade School: Osborne Middle School
  • Favorite Saint(s): Our Lady of Guadalupe

I was born in Phoenix, AZ, and raised Catholic in a family of immigrants. My mother was the most active Catholic in my family, bringing me along to mass and services at my parish. In the early years of my childhood, I spent much of the time being raised in Puruándiro, Michoacán, with my grandparents. I had a very enjoyable childhood, but as I grew older, things started to change in my family. After the age of six, my father became an alcoholic which greatly affected my family. I grew up in an household of domestic violence and that caused me to head down a darker path in life. My faith weakened and I strayed away from the Church. It wasn’t until my mother sent me to Saint Mary’s high school, where I began to learn more about my faith. I learned about theology and grew in curiosity of my faith through that school. I started to realize the error of my ways and started to turn my life around. I got closer to the Church and pushed away all the people who had harmed me, and I learned to forgive those who had hurt me. Thanks to the help of Saint Mary’s and my mother, I returned to the Church began to discern my future. I felt the call to the priesthood after a lot of prayer and involvement in my church. I felt peace in the Church and after many retreats, a lot of prayer, and the support of my family, I discerned that I should enter seminary where I am further discerning God’s will for me.

Christopher Lukazewski

  • Parish: Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral
  • High School: Bourgade Catholic High School
  • Grade School: Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Glendale), St. Catherine of Siena
  • Favorite Saint(s): St. Dominic Savio, San Jose Sanchez del Rio, St. John Paul II, St. Sebastian, St. Tarcisius, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Gianna Molla

My name is Christopher Jacob Lukaszewski. I was born on May 31, 2001. As number five of nine kids, I treasured the few quiet moments. The first ones were spent walking to preschool with my dad. It’s surprising how grand an adventure crossing the street is at four years old. Every day we would stop by the shady tree to rest. If words were said they were forgotten, but words couldn’t express the meaning of that scene. Just me and my dad, a reflection of the Father and his children. All we needed was each other. The other quite moments were spent lying in bed, staring up at my brother Peter. I could have tried to beat him up hours before, declaring my undying hatred for him (I was scrappy as I was tiny), but at night we were partners in crime, staying up late while talking about anything. And what i didn’t realize was significant were the silences, when we just were there. 

Whether crossing the street, testing my strength, or staying up late trying to understand the world and everything else, what attracted me were to things: The clear adventure, and the unseen Love. I loved my family; I loved life itself.

I didn’t realize until later just how much I loved God. I had to be shown that.

In freshman year, I was told to die. No, I wasn’t being threatened, I was being taught. Mrs. Amy O’Connell showed us the difference between being a good person and being a true Christian is found in Christ. The mark of a true Christian is dying. Not literally, but she meant death to sin, to selfish desire. To give your life to Christ is to give your life up. That hit me like a lightning bolt. I had no idea how I was supposed to give up everything, so I got a little help from God. I went from shuffling my feet to follow Peter to daily mass out of guilt, to resigning from my student council position rather than miss a day of mass. I went from blindly devoting my life to the rush of theatre, to speaking out against a slightly heretical director. I met amazing preists, teachers, men and women who lead me. I went on retreats at Bourgade and at Ss. Simon and Jude, and helped lead those retreats later. I have been blessed beyond measure, and in serving the lord in many ways, I realized what St. Augustine says much more eloquently. “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” And I can’t wait for the greatest consolation: the joy of serving Him.

Now this is great and all, but why priesthood? If I had a nickle for every time I was told I’d be a good priest, I’d had enough to start a new diocese! But those moments helped me to never stop wondering if that was my adventure to take. I remember the first time I knew that I felt drawn to this sacrament. I was altar serving at Ss. Simon and Jude, just before freshman year was starting. My mind was wandering a little, when out of nowhere, I looked up. As Fr. Lankeit raised the host for benediction, I felt a certainty in my heart and said to myself: “Yeah. I want to do that”. I want to literally bring Christ to others. I want to live as Jesus lived for others. And as I figure out if this is what God wants for me, I’ll never forget that God is what my soul yearns for. And I’ll follow Him wherever He leads me.

Daniel Carlisi

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