St. Mary's College, Oscott
People are always shocked when they find out that seminary lasts either six or seven years. However as I look back now, after spending over five years in seminary, it seems strange to think that there is now only a few months left before I prepare for ordination as a deacon. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the time I have spent in seminary and I don't feel like the time has been a ‘drag.’
I grew up in the town of Walsall, not too far away from Oscott. Growing up, there were a number of things - posters, teachers, etc. - which made me aware of the idea of vocation but these were never the things that made me think it was my vocation. I came from a Catholic family, but not an especially religious one: prayer was not a part of daily life at home. So this too was not really where the call came from. For me, it was when I started to grow in my relationship with the Lord by developing a life of daily personal prayer, perhaps around the age of eleven or twelve, that I started to become aware that the Lord might - might - be calling me to the priesthood.
Over the years, this awareness slowly grew but I can’t say that it always corresponded with a desire to become a priest. At times, I tried to put my own desires first but these plans never left me feeling satisfied and sense of being called never disappeared. It was at the age of 19 that I knew I needed to stop putting my own will first and to give myself to God - whatever it was that he wanted of me. I got in touch with the Vocations Director and started prioritise my discernment. It quickly became apparent to me that although I wasn’t certain whether the Lord wanted me to be a priest, he wanted me to follow the path towards it. Ultimately that meant going to seminary, not just to be formed for priesthood but also to discern more fully the Lord’s call. I spent a few years trying to prepare myself to start seminary, studying Philosophy and History with the Open University and working as a support worker with adults with learning difficulties.
In 2013, at the age of 23, I was accepted to start formation for the Priesthood and was asked to go to Valladolid, Spain for the propaedeutic year. Following this, I was asked to go to Oscott College where I am to this day. I have enjoyed the life of prayer and study and I have particularly enjoyed the pastoral experiences which we are given in care homes, schools, hospitals, and prisons as well as the longer placements which we do each year in parishes. These experiences have been the most helpful thing for me in discerning my vocation to the priesthood. Most especially the experiences where I have been with priests whilst they have administered The Lord’s life giving sacramental graces to needy souls.
Being at seminary and actually following the path towards the priesthood has for me being the crucial part of discerning the call of the Lord more clearly. I now not only think the Lord might be calling me to the priesthood but I also feel quite sure of it. I now am not only willing to follow the Lord in priesthood if it is his will but I also desire it too. There is nothing else I can imagine doing which would leave me truly happy and satisfied.