When I was in second grade my mother told me that I would come home and slam my fists on the table and say, “I don’t care if God wants me to become a priest I am not going.” What makes this interesting is the fact that no one was encouraging me to become a priest. I didn’t grow up in a religious family. My Mom went to church but not my Dad. We said Grace before meals but that was about it. I knew no priest. However, I did go to Catholic school from fourth grade on.
I never once thought of becoming a priest. It was the last thing on my mind. My vocation to become a priest is connected to very random events.
I remember being a senior in high school, and my dad had a computer program that helped you pick a college. I was an average student at best. I remember sitting down at the computer and typing in my facts and some colleges came up. I remember just putting down random information. A college popped up. It was Gannon University in Erie, Pa.
I told my mom, “I am going to Gannon University.” She asked me why and I said, “I don’t know but that is where I am going.” I have always been a go with the flow kind of person.
I remember driving up with my dad. There was lots of snow on the ground. We met one of the guidance counselors and he handed my dad a flyer for a new program called: The Center for Christian Wisdom.My father was just coming off a big conversion and he was on fire for the Lord. My dad signed me up.
The next thing I knew I was reading Aristotle with 4 other kids. I also had a spiritual director. I felt I was the only kid in the world with a spiritual director. All the other kids came from very spiritual homes. I felt like an odd duck.
I was moved by what I was being taught. I realized how much Jesus had changed my life. I applied to the seminary freshman year. I didn’t pass the psychology test because of depression. Depression was something that I battled with most of my life.
In my junior year of college I went to a pro-life conference in Ohio. A young man asked me to pray the rosary. I said to him, “I have not prayed a rosary since 8th grade” How can you say no to the rosary? I went back to Gannon and was in the chapel and I said to Jesus, “I promise to pray the rosary every single day of my life.” At that moment I knew Jesus was calling me to be a priest. It is now almost 20 years since that day and I have never once missed a day praying the rosary.
I went again to the vocation director of Arlington, Va. Normally if you fail the psychological test once that’s the only chance you get. But one of my teachers at Gannon was Fr Levis. Fr Levis was the reason the vocation director became a priest. He would accept anyone that Fr Levis recommended. I remember the vocation director saying to me, “We will accept you, but you have to take the earring out of your ear.” I had just worked two summer at a camp in Seattle, Washington and I was in my Hippie stage.
Again I went to take the psychological test. This time it was with a different doctor. I said 3 Hail Marys before I went in. I felt as if a bubble went over me and I was protected. I remember the doctor saying to me, “Nothing in all of my training would tell me that you are the same person that took the first test. You are a completely different person.”
In truth I still had the same issues I just felt protected during that interview. It was a sign of Mary helping me and guiding me.
The Moral of this story is that my vocation started by a random event at the computer.
God speaks to us in so many ways. Are we listening?
God Bless Fr Stefan