By Gordon Nary
Gordon: You have a great profile on Facebook . When did you first know that you had a vocation to the priesthood, with whom did you discuss this, and what advice were you given?
Deacon Tim: Thank you, Gordon! I first knew that I had a vocation to the priesthood when I was studying at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. GO ILLINI! I went to the sacrament of confession for the first time in a long time. After receiving the amazing gift of God’s mercy, I left the confessional and found myself in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. From that moment on, I began to think about the idea of the priesthood and couldn’t get it out of my mind. It kept increasing and increasing in my heart as time went on. I spoke with many friends, family, and priests about the priesthood. I always felt joy and peace after speaking with people who really “knew” me and could see me as a future priest. One of the greatest pieces of advice I received was from the only other priest who grew up at my own home parish, like I did. I was nervous about so many different aspects of the priesthood, when he told me, “Tim, always remember that your vocation is to Christ Crucified and no one else. He is your strength and your joy and your peace.” I will always be indebted to that priest and so many Christ-centered Chicago priests who have guided me closer and closer to my vocation.
Gordon: Peers often have an influence on when students discuss their career plans. What did you classmates say when you discussed your vocation with them?
Deacon Tim: What is incredible is that most of my friends mentioned the idea of priesthood to me before I was even ready to share that information! God is so crafty sometimes in using others to plant the seeds of a vocation.
Gordon: Since you are completing your studies for priesthood in Rome at the North American College, you were ordained a deacon at St. Peter's Basilica. What are your most powerful memories of this experience?
Deacon Tim: I mean, the entire ordination mass was one huge “grace-bomb.” But one memory that does stand out was the “Laying on of Hands.” It is the most ancient part of the sacrament. Cardinal O’Malley follows the gesture of the Apostles in laying his hands on the deacon-elect, calling down the Holy Spirit upon him. The entire Basilica goes silent at that moment while the Cardinal calls down the Holy Spirit. It was an extraordinarily peaceful and powerful moment. All of this, mind you, is done above where the bones of St. Peter, our first pope, are buried.
Gordon: Based on your experience, what can parishes do to help young people consider a religious vocation?
Deacon Tim: There is one consistent thing that I’ve noticed time and time again that helps with vocations within a parish: Eucharistic Adoration. More likely than not, if you ask a seminarian what his home parish is, it will be a parish that has a consistent program of Eucharistic Adoration or Perpetual Adoration. And more likely than not, if you ask a seminarian about his vocation story, he will speak of the Eucharist being a large part of his call. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith as Catholics and the source and summit of the life of the priest. If a parish wants to encourage more young people to consider a religious vocation, I would encourage them to start a program of Eucharistic Adoration. What better way to develop an authentic relationship with Jesus than to encounter Him present in the Eucharist!
Gordon: In additional to Facebook, are there other social media resources that you use?
Deacon Tim: The only other social media resource that I use is Snapchat. I’m addicted to it! It is an easy, fun and quick way to share my experiences in Rome with my friends and family back home. Quick snap of Pope Francis here…quick snap of a Marian Procession there…
Gordon: What are the studies of a seminarian like in his 4th year of Theology? What topics are you covering to prepare for priesthood?
Deacon Tim: Seminarians in their 4th year of Theology in Rome begin studying for their Licentiate, where they concentrate in a specific area of Theology, from Dogma to Patristics to Scripture to Ecumenism. I am currently studying in the area of Spiritual Theology. I am currently in classes on the Spirituality of St. Augustine, The Vision of John Paul II, Spiritual Direction, and John Henry Newman and the Second Vatican Council.
Gordon: On your profile on Chicago Priest, you mention that The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a must-read for every seminarian and man who is discerning . Could you comment further how he addresses this challenge?
Deacon Tim: The Brothers Karamazov is not only a great book for men discerning the priesthood, but any Christian man. In the book, Dostoevsky brilliantly portrays a man following after the heart of God in the midst of suffering, evil, craziness, and sin. Every Christian man, in his life will experience these trials. The book encouraged me and gave me confidence in my identity as a beloved man of God and son of the Father.
Gordon: Are most Chicago seminarians Cubs fans or Sox fans?
Deacon Tim: I think it’s generously split down the middle. But after this past World Series, we may have converted a few Sox Fans…GO CUBBIES!!!