By David E. Martinez

It seems to me that the notion of “vocation” that many of us have been taught since our early days of catechism is a source of preoccupation for some, especially young people. We want God to descend from a cloud and give us a multi-step plan titled, “My Will, Please Do it Perfectlyor Else.”

If this is the understanding of vocation we have, then it’s no wonder we’re stressed! This appears to be the way that many understand seminary as well. Many think that going into seminary necessarily entails priesthood.

This is probably why a lot of young men are afraid to even consider the possibility of entering. The truth is that, yes, while seminary is a place where men go to consider the possibility of priesthood, God can also use it as a powerful tool for the formation of strong, virtuous men called to other vocations. I am grateful, because this is the manner in which God has used seminary formation in my life.

I recently completed four years of college seminary. My time in seminary taught me a lot about proper discernment. I learned that it can be messy, yet freeing. Messy because it requires one to look at those wounded areas of one’s life and come to terms with them to begin healing. Freeing because asking the question, “Lord, what do you want from me?” grants us a special grace and disposition to do God’s Will despite the distractions of the world.

As soon as I entered, I quickly learned that good discernment requires great patience and great trust, which do not come easy. However, the Lord reminds us, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

This past semester, I made the decision to step away from seminary formation. While it was a tough decision, it has brought me immense peace. When I realized that God was calling me out of the seminary, I was tempted to think that the past four years had been a complete waste. However, God comforted me in prayer by reminding me of something our rector, Father Joe Moriarty, frequently told us, that “Time in seminary is never wasted.”

He knows that regardless of whether God is calling us to priesthood or elsewhere, the seminary is a place where one is formed into a better man. It nurtures one through the human, spiritual, pastoral and academic pillars of formation. Moreover, it grants one the gifts of friendship and brotherhood through community life.

My time in seminary was not wasted, on the contrary, God allowed me to form great relationships with my brothers, formators and friends that I’ve made in ministry assignments, and I’ve learned a great deal from them. He has given me a foundation of faith that I am able to carry out into my life.

The relationships I’ve formed there and the guidance I’ve received from the formators are things that I will always cherish no matter where God leads me next. It’s for this reason that I would encourage anyone who is considering priesthood or religious life to not be afraid to test the waters, because the experience will undoubtedly be worth it if you are open to doing God’s will.

Yes, discernment can be daunting, but our Lord simply asks us to do his Will here and now and take it one step at a time. He will accompany you every step of the way.

David E. Martinez, of Portage, graduated from Portage High School and entered seminary in the fall of 2016. He recently graduated from Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary and Marian University, Indianapolis and, having discerned out of the seminary, he is planning to join the workforce while considering graduate school as a future possibility. His home parish is St. Paul in Valparaiso.