A Mass was offered today for all seminarians that they will grow in holiness and lead us all in love. Every month we have a Mass offered for this intention. As our seminarians will be the future shepherds and our children are the future flock, it seemed a beautiful way for the children to help.
We have been periodically featuring different seminarians on the first of the month by inviting them to share something of themselves - a beautiful sharing of faith and love of Our Lord.
Today, when one would expect the warmth of spring, we have ice and snow falling in the Northeast part of the United States. Yet, through this we see the beauty of spring peeking through. Just so there is great beauty in the hearts of men saying, "Yes" to a life in service of Our Lord. Today we would like to share the stories of two such men. These are beautiful stories and I hope many will want to share these with their children and also pray for these young men.
"Hello, my name is Kevin Camilo, and I am currently in my sophomore year of the minor seminary studying for the Archdiocese of New York. I was born on September 19, 1995 in Brooklyn New York. I lived there for most of my life before spending some time in Missouri, California, and settled back again in New York. My mother was always very devout and she tried her best to instill the faith in my siblings and I. Now I first felt the call to the priesthood when I was about 10 years old. I have memories of looking at the priest all wide eyed as he would elevate the body and blood of Jesus. As I went through middle school into high school I put the idea of priesthood more and more on the back burner, until I found myself walking somewhat far from God. During my senior years of high school, the good Lord called me back to Himself and I rediscovered the faith of my mother and the love of that God had for me. As I started to practice the faith and take responsibility for it, our Lord once again brought the thought of priesthood back to my mind. I ran away at first but after a while the love of God caught up with me and with great peace I realized that this was something I had to at least take a look at. So I spoke to my parish priest and he spoke to me about what a vocation is and what it means to feel called to the priesthood. After about two years I decided to take the leap of faith and apply for the seminary. By the goodness of God, I was accepted and not a day goes by that I regret it. Seminary life is not without out its difficulties and even doubts at times, but I know that God is always faithful and more and more He has become my daily strength regardless of where He may lead me."
"I was born in Westminster, London, to Irish parents in 1984. I am the middle child of three boys. I received the sacraments as I attended Catholic Primary and Secondary school. My mother brought me to mass as a child, and did her best to ensure I was exposed to the faith.
My priority as a child was soccer, either watching it or playing it. Like most young boys it was always my dream to be a professional soccer player.
Moved to Ireland as a 14 year old
My family and I moved to Galway, Ireland, in my teens. I found this initial move hard to take. As with most teens all you want to do is fit in with the crowd, at that age your peers mean everything to you. Playing a high standard of soccer allowed me to make friends and feel accepted among my peers. I was captain of the school soccer team. As I made friends I developed a social life at a young age and my Catholic faith played no role in my life.
School was becoming less important to me as my social life was taking over. I received a sport soccer scholarship while at university. I had a girlfriend, many friends and popularity. Mass and prayer were not things I would have wasted my time with! My lifestyle was earning me popularity for the wrong reasons, and I was beginning to isolate myself from the rest of my family.
Over the space of 9 months my life was turned upside down.
I left the University course I was studying as I realized it wasn’t for me. Shortly after, while playing a soccer match I sustained a serious leg injury. I was on the wrong end of a bad tackle, and broke my leg severely, it was a compound fracture of my tibia and fibula. I had three surgeries, where I had a metal rod inserted through my knee and 4 screws to hold it in place. This was a painful experience for me on many levels. My priorities were really challenged, as I had lived for playing soccer, and it had been taken away from me.
Then the dreaded news came, "Niall, worst case scenario, we are going to amputate your leg." This news hit me badly, it was like a knife to my heart. My biggest worry up to that point was what soccer team I would sign for, and now I was faced with the prospect of having my leg amputated.
The night before the surgery while lying in my hospital bed, I really started to enter myself for the first time in years. I began to ask questions regarding my existence, "Why is this happening to me?" "What's this life all about"?! For the first time in years I began to pray, "God if you are real then please save my leg. I’ll be good from now on and I’ll change my life, please help me"...and thank God after three more surgeries and plastic surgery, my leg made a recovery. For some reason I believed that God had heard my prayer.
After this event that occurred in my life I began to seek out a meaning and purpose to my existence. I had a Bible that I began to read regularly. I began to compare passages in the Bible to my own life, and the more my existence started to make sense. I became more curious about my faith and regularly discussed it with my mother, and started to attend Catholic events.
I had by this time established a prayer life and a relationship with God. My focus was changing from the materialistic things of today’s world to Christ himself.
I dedicated my time to helping the homeless, reading and learning more about my faith. In 2014 I came to the South Bronx, New York to work with the Missionaries of Charity in a homeless shelter. It was while serving the homeless and the forgotten that I felt the Lord inviting me to discern my vocation at a deeper level. In 2015 I entered seminary for the Archdiocese of New York.
Reflecting on my life, it is evident that invoking the Saints has played a pivotal role on this journey. Praying to Ignatius Loyola, who also found God through a leg injury brings me great courage. St Damien of Molokai, the ‘suffering servant’ who lived and died with lepers exiled on the island of Molokai, is a true example for me, an example of how to live with joy and solidarity with the outcasts of the world. St. Teresa of Kolkata, and my experiences with her congregation, has laid a foundation for my faith ‘to do small things with love’ and to ‘see Christ in everyone.’ And my devotion to our Blessed Mother, has brought me closer to her son Jesus.
I feel it must be mentioned that none of the above took place on my own merit, but simply by God’s grace working in my life. Surrendering my own will, and cooperating with God, has brought me on a journey that I could never have imagined. I have done nothing to deserve the way He has blessed me, or the way He continues to act in my life. There has been a major transformation, and a complete renewal of my mind, and none of it has been my doing, but simply saying yes, and surrendering my will to Him. I hope to always wholeheartedly try, with the grace that I receive, to do the will of God."
A special thank you to Kevin Camilo and Naill McDonagh for sharing their beautiful vocation stories. Please keep them in your prayers.
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