By Cristobal DeloeraExclusively for SoonerCatholic.com
"Who influenced you to begin study for the priesthood?"
In my decision to study for the priesthood, there were many persons who influenced me in my vocation. First of all, my mother was a great influence who always encouraged and supported me in my vocational discernment. Since I can remember, my mother always took us to Church on Sundays and days of obligation. However, the person who encouraged me to think about a vocation to the priesthood more seriously was Sister Margarita Vasquez. I remember one day after a Holy Hour she told me, “Cris, come with me to my office; I need to give you something.” So I followed her and when we got to her office, she pulled out her keys to open the door. As she was putting the key in the door knob, she stopped and looked right into my eyes and said, “Cris, have you ever thought about going to seminary?” When she said this, I told her that I had, but that I was not very interested in that style of life. I said that to her because I was very nervous and I had been avoiding that question for a long time. Then she gave me this advice: “Pray to Jesus and Mary and they will show you the way.” I did as she told me and, throughout my personal discernment, I asked God for another sign. All this was taking place at the beginning of December of my senior year in high school. And three weeks later, on a Sunday after Mass, my associate pastor, Father Joseph Michael Irwin, asked me the same question and also asked if I wanted to go to "An Encounter with God's Call" at Conception Seminary College in Missouri to see if I might like it. I told him that I would like to go visit but that I didn’t have the money to pay for the tuition. He told me not to worry about the money, that God would provide.
First of all, you might be wondering why I would visit a seminary where all they do is pray on their knees all day long. It sounds boring, right? Well, that’s exactly what I thought when Father Irwin asked me if I was interested in checking it out. To be honest, I didn’t know what seminarians did in seminary. I only knew that they were out in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles away from the city. I seriously couldn’t see myself visiting such a place. Not even in my wildest dreams. No way, I was a city boy who was living life to the fullest and in what seemed to be a fulfilling way. I soon found out that that was not the case. I was missing the most important piece of the puzzle -- God.
When I had agreed to participate in this “Come and See" weekend, in March of 2005, there was one thing that kept running through my mind. I was thinking to myself, "Surely Father will forget to call me and I will be free to hang out with my friends on the weekend." Well, that was not the case. One week before the trip Father Irwin called me to remind me of the trip. When he called, he asked me, "Are you ready for next weekend?" I replied, “Sure, Father, I have never been so ready in my life.” I felt a profound peace because I knew that it was only going to be a weekend experience and I was going to have the opportunity to experience seminary life and ask questions to “real seminarians.” On our way to Conception Seminary College, I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. However, when we arrived at the seminary, Father Stephen Hamilton said, “Gentlemen, here we are. This is Conception Seminary College, try to enjoy your weekend, and, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.” My only questions at that moment were: "God, why did you bring me here? What do you want from me?"
Honestly, I had never visited such a beautiful place as CSC. As we approached the front door of the seminary, a group of seminarians kindly greeted us. One thing that immediately struck me was the fact that they were “normal young men.” They were not wearing superman capes or anything of that sort. They were normal like us. They radiated a great joy and happiness that without a doubt caught all of our attention. I could sense something very special, something that I didn’t understand at that time. Now that I reflect and look back on this weekend I am able to say with much confidence that it was a “vocation” that was being nurtured and formed by the hands of God. All of the seminarians that I met exuded this joy and happiness through their conduct and interaction with each other. It was almost as if they were saying out loud, “Hey, I am here following God’s Will; what are you doing with your life? Who do you want to be in life? What do you want to accomplish? How does God want you to share your gifts and your talents?"
Without a doubt, that weekend was one of the best weekends of my life. While we were at the seminary, the seminarians organized talks that addressed the “call” to answer God’s Will for our lives. Besides that, they also offered outdoor activities, such as soccer, volleyball and football, among others. This made it more realistic and appealing because I always thought that seminarians could not have fun by engaging in competitive activities. This is because I loved sports and I thought that I had to give up everything, even my favorite hobbies. I was totally mistaken. This weekend I was able to experience competition, passion for sports, brotherhood, friendship, courage and love of living life to the fullest. All my expectations in a sense were surpassed and even changed by seeing how life was lived out in the confines of a seminary.
After we came back from our visit to the seminary, I was convinced that God was calling me to study for the priesthood. I didn’t know what it was going to require of me, but I only knew deep within my heart that I should definitively give myself an opportunity to respond with a generous “Yes” and with a committed heart. Today, I can happily say that I don’t regret attending “Come and See” at Conception Seminary College.
Dear friends, as one who has lived this experience, I humbly ask you -- yes, you, who are reading this invitation right now -- to please consider before God whether He is calling you to serve Him, perhaps as a priest for the people of Oklahoma. +Peter said to Jesus, “Lord it is good for us to be here” (Matt. 17:4).