Ben Connelly was one of a dozen students from Montfort Academy touring St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, last week. The young men were together listening to Deacon Rufus Kenny, a seminarian who will be ordained to the priesthood next month for the Archdiocese of New York, as he led them across seminary grounds and into the chapel’s sacristy, sanctuary and nave.
“Every time I come here, I sense the Holy Spirit is among us,” Connelly, a sophomore at the high school in Mount Vernon, told CNY after the tour concluded.
“The seminarians and the people who work here are all friendly.”
The students from Montfort Academy and about 150 others from Catholic high schools and parishes in the archdiocese were attending an Evening for Vocations with Cardinal Dolan sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Vocations. The day, May 1, marked the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
The young men, the vast majority of whom were high school age along with a couple in college, accompanied priests who serve in their parishes and schools as well as teachers and other representatives of those institutions.
They prayed together at Evening Prayer with Cardinal Dolan in a filled seminary chapel, their voices joining with seminarians and other faculty members of the seminary that forms priests for the archdiocese as well as for the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
The cardinal, in his homily, spoke about several simple ways the young men might see whether God is asking them to consider a priestly vocation.
The first way is that they love God and take their Catholic faith and religion seriously. The second is that they “like the Church” and enjoy attending Mass and praying on their own, are happy spending time “around the parish” and attending their Catholic school.
The third sign is that they appreciate the work and service of the priests they know, trust and admire those priests and like being in their company. The final signal is if people whom they know have asked, “Have you ever thought about becoming a priest?”
“You wouldn’t have been invited tonight if someone didn’t think you would be a good priest,” Cardinal Dolan added.
After the tours and Evening Prayer, the students enjoyed a buffet-style Italian dinner in the seminary refectory.
Father Christopher Argano, the director of vocations for the archdiocese, told CNY that the evening was a good opportunity for young men to see that they “are not alone in this, that there are guys like yourself trying to discern” what God is calling them to be.
The priest said that his advice for young men who think they may have a priestly vocation is to “keep bringing this to prayer. Ask Jesus, ‘What do you want me to do with my life?’”
“Jesus is the vocation director, I’m assisting Him in that ministry,” Father Argano said.
Deacon Kenny, 28, who served as a deacon at Evening Prayer, told CNY that he found the Montfort Academy students he was leading “so well formed in the faith.”
“I was reaping what had been sowed,” he said about his time showing them around the seminary, along with their headmaster, David Petrillo.
Joseph Petrillo, a senior at Montfort Academy and the son of the headmaster, said he was impressed by Deacon Kenny’s humility and knowledge of the faith, as well as by his zeal in transmitting it.
Petrillo, who plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Dayton in Ohio in the fall, said he appreciates the “peaceful environment” that pervades St. Joseph’s Seminary.
Classmate Ben Connelly told CNY that a priestly vocation is “something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.” He said he has been praying about “what God wants for me.”
“I think it would be great to become a priest,” said Connelly, who also said he feels that it would be great to be married or single as well.
Right now, Connelly said, he is enjoying life as a student at Montfort, which he called “a place where students are taught to be young men and women.”