Jonathan Soto attended his first Evening for Vocations in seventh grade and participated in his fourth at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie March 19.
The senior was one of eight Cardinal Hayes High School students among the 150 students, priests and chaperones attending the event.
“I love to see the architecture. Even though sometimes information may become repetitive, I still love to learn about it because religion is my favorite subject in school,” said Jonathan, who hopes to be a psychiatrist but said he has not ruled out becoming a priest.
“Seeing how the brotherhood and lifestyle works around here with the priests and seminarians is really convincing. This is what keeps bringing me back here.”
The evening began with a tour of the seminary by the seminarians, continued with Solemn Evening Prayer with Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara and concluded with an Italian dinner on the Feast of St. Joseph.
Jonathan was with Cardinal Hayes juniors Fernando Mendoza and Christopher Mendez, who both have previously participated in the Evening for Vocations. Fernando said he has worked with Auxiliary Bishop John Jenik and considers him a role model.
Christopher was there to strengthen his faith and see what God has in store for him. “What made me decide to come is to always keep an open mind and see what God has for me in life,” he said. “If he’s calling me to the priesthood, I will discern that. If he’s not, it’s always a blessing to be open and accept what God wants me to be.”
The Solemn Evening Prayer featured song, prayer and a homily by Bishop O’Hara, who shared a story of a visit to St. Joseph’s by Cardinal Terence Cooke that led to his episcopal motto from the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Will Be Done.” Bishop O’Hara repeated Cardinal Cooke’s motto that served as a joyful surrender to the will of God as he spoke of vocations.
“Every single one of you has a special vocation given by Jesus Christ,” Bishop O’Hara said in his homily. “Some of you we hope will consider gracing the call to follow the Lord as an archdiocesan priest. Still others will realize they are called to marriage and family. All of these are vocations, but what we have to do is give Jesus permission to work in our life, to give God permission as Mother Teresa tells us.
“When you receive Holy Communion and He becomes a part of us, just don’t take the money and run, spend a couple of minutes with him alone. Give God permission to work in your life.”
Father Christopher Argano, director of vocations in the archdiocese, told CNY that he hoped the young men “get a sense of the importance as Bishop O’Hara said of being attentive to God’s will in their prayer life, going to Mass, receiving the sacraments. Always be open to whatever God’s will is in their life. If they do, they’ll be fine.”
Three Our Lady of Lourdes High School seniors — Patrick Jodry, Luke Della Pietra and Chris Bob — attended the event with school chaplain Father Thomas Lutz. The three were given a tour of the seminary by first-year theology seminarians Stephen Rooney from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Matthew Breslin, a graduate of Lourdes.
“I really wanted to see the building. It’s historic. The chapel is really beautiful with how they have the Old Testament and New Testament scenes on the windows. I loved them,” said Chris, who plans to study international relations in college with hopes of one day bringing nations together, something he said the “Church does a good job doing.”
Breslin attended the Evening for Vocations at the seminary when he was a junior at Lourdes and remembered being inspired by seeing seminarians who loved their faith so much. He said he was enjoying his new role as a seminarian tour leader.
“What I would want for them is a to get a sense that it’s good to be a Catholic, be active in the faith and pursue God above everything else,” Breslin said. “Especially at their age, it’s really tough to fit in and to be Catholic. If they can find a middle ground with how to live out their faith and how to live it in a way to inspire others to do so, that would be a great result of this day.”