Announcing the 2011 Novitiate Class for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph

June 20, 2011

Christopher – Tennessee, 21 years old, studied at Notre Dame

      Though born in southern California, I was raised in a small Tennessee town called Gallatin, not far from Nashville. I am the oldest of eight children, the youngest five of whom are adopted (two of them from Ethiopia).

      I was raised Catholic, but it wasn’t until I was in middle school that fully practicing our Faith started to become important to my family and me. I became an altar server, and in eighth grade I had my first religion classes and went on my first retreat. It was around that time that I began to have sincere thoughts about becoming a priest, but in high school those thoughts were pushed to the back of my mind, later to be more or less dismissed. My faith remained important to me though, as I involved myself heavily in diocese-wide retreats and youth programs. After high school, I went to the University of Notre Dame, and in May 2011 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology and Piano Performance.
      I spent the spring semester of my junior year of college studying in Rome at the Dominican-run Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (“the Angelicum”). Priesthood and religious life were still only at the back of my mind when I was in Rome, but as the semester progressed, the idea that God might be calling me to the priesthood slowly began to fight back to the forefront of my thoughts. After returning home to Tennessee, my love for the Angelicum and the Dominican priests I encountered there prompted me to inquire about the Order of Preachers. Notre Dame was a good place to discern, especially having had the aid and example of Fr. Anthony Giambrone, O.P., a holy priest from the Province of St. Joseph who is doing his doctoral studies at Notre Dame. The more I prayed about my vocation and learned about the Order, the clearer it became to me that God wanted me to enter the novitiate, so in the spring I applied and was accepted, Deo gratias!
      The aspects of Dominican life that appeal to me are many: preaching, study, the common life, the “mixed life” of contemplation and action, the great devotion to Mary and the Rosary, and the dedication to the Truth and to the salvation of souls. I pray that God will bring my vocation to completion and fashion me into a good and holy Dominican priest and preacher of Christ, who is Himself the way, the truth, and the life.

Brian – California, 22 years old, studied at Princeton University
I was born and raised in California, and my family’s home is in San Jose. Aside from enjoying the sunny weather, I was blessed to have two parents who worked and sacrificed for my education, all the while giving me a solid grounding in the Faith. My father is a lawyer and a captain in the Navy Reserve, while my mother is a registered nurse. My younger sister and I were taught how to read and how to pray early on in life, and this has been the foundation for everything that I’ve done since.
I first thought about the priesthood when a close relative passed away unexpectedly when I was in fourth grade. Priests were in the midst of our family’s ordeal, discussing questions of life and death, saying the rosary, and celebrating the Requiem Mass with prayerful solemnity. Around the same time, I had a startling realization: not everybody is Catholic. When some of my friends began asking tough questions and challenging what the Church taught, I couldn’t resist digging deeper and reading more to find the best answers and get at the truth.
I had the benefit of a Jesuit education at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, where I spent much of my time in speech and debate. From the foundations of logic and reasoned argument, to the art of persuasion and public speaking, my teachers and coaches forced me to reckon with the best arguments on either side of an issue. Even though debate too easily dissolves into sophistry and relativism today, I was always reminded to use reason ‘for the greater glory of God,’ as the Jesuit motto goes.

      I went on to attend Princeton University, where I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in politics. At Princeton, we enjoy a thriving Catholic community that fully unites the spiritual life and the life of the mind. I was one of the student leaders of the chaplaincy (appropriately named ‘The Aquinas Institute’), and there I found a community life that made me want to learn more and grow in holiness. Thanks to faculty members like Robert George, I found myself part of a vigorous conversation about the challenges we face as a nation and a Church.
      Pursuing a vocation in the Order of Preachers brought these different threads of my past together, and gave me a sense that it was as a Dominican that I might best serve God and fulfill my purpose. When I encountered the Dominican friars at Blackfriars, Oxford, and at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, I found a powerful sense of brotherhood and common purpose in serving Christ through study and preaching. I see in the Dominican life the abiding faith of my parents, the priestly ministry from my family’s time of grief, the forensic prowess of Bellarmine debate, the community life and brilliance of Princeton. Most of all, I see a community striving to follow in the footsteps of the apostles, eager to fulfill Pope Benedict’s call to re-evangelize the West. I pray that I might well serve Christ and His Church from within the Order.
James – Ohio, 23 years old, studied at University of Pittsburgh

      I was born on February 22, 1988 to John and Diane Matous. My parents raised me with my two older sisters in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Prior to entering high school, I moved to Columbus, Ohio with my parents. I then pursued a Bachelor of Science in the Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

      I was fortunate to have been raised Catholic and attend Catholic schools for most of my life, but by high school my faith was simply something that I did on Sundays. During college though, it transformed into something greater. My faith became the center of my life and the definition of who I was. I was blessed with the presence of the Oratorian Fathers on campus and a strong community of Catholic students.
      I experienced a deeper conversion during my senior year while reading the lives of the saints. In particular, I began to understand the reality of the universal call to holiness, and for me, it manifested itself as a deep attraction to the religious life and the spiritual fatherhood of a priest. This put me in an interesting situation because at the time I was dating a wonderful woman and had been accepted into several MD/PhD dual degree programs for the upcoming school year. But the Lord provided the necessary graces as he always does, and I decided to take a year off to discern God’s will.
      I would like to say that my discernment was easy or that I was initially drawn to the Dominicans, but I cannot. After spending time with other religious communities, the Lord led me to the Dominicans mostly through the witness of the Dominican friars at St. Patrick’s in Columbus, Ohio. What initially attracted me was the common life of the brethren and the balance between the contemplative and active life. I was drawn towards the mission of contemplation and study for the sake of preaching and the salvation of souls. As I spent more time with the friars, I realized that it was this community that I was looking for all along and that my heart truly belonged to the Order of Preachers. I do not know how I will serve the Order, but I am excited to serve in whatever way is necessary and I pray that I may always have the grace to say ‘yes’ to the will of God.

Christopher – West Virginia, 23 years old, studied at University of Virginia

      I was born in a small town in West Virginia along the Ohio River and was the second of what would be seven children born to my parents, David and Lauretta. When I was in the fifth grade, my family moved to another small town, though this time in southern Virginia. As my father was Baptist and my mother Catholic, my siblings and I were brought up in both traditions, attending Baptist Sunday School one week and CCD the next. On top of this, I was actually baptized Maronite Catholic, though raised Roman Catholic. Hence, much of my youth was spent exploring different aspects and avenues of the Faith.

      Though by the time of my Confirmation in high school my entire family had become “full-time Catholics,” I did not completely embrace the Faith until my undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia, where I first encountered the Dominicans. I found that I was drawn to the friars’ focus on the Truth, as well as their more intellectual approach to preaching the Faith. As I progressed in my studies, I found that I became increasingly drawn to the Church and began to consider the Priesthood in a favorable light, after years of having resisted the idea of a Religious Vocation. However, by this time, I was in the middle of writing my Master’s thesis and trying to figure out what I would do immediately after graduation. Consequently, I decided to put off taking the time for serious discernment until after I had graduated and settled into something resembling a responsible lifestyle.
      I eventually landed a job in the Northern Virginia area with a government contractor, doubling as a systems engineer and political science analyst. After working for a few months, I began to notice an ever-growing desire to give God a more central role in my life. I soon sought to explore this desire through spiritual direction, which quickly turned to seriously discerning a Religious Vocation and my eventual application to the Province of St. Joseph.
      First and foremost, I desire to become a Dominican Friar; I am willing and desire to serve in whichever capacity I am most needed, whether it be in a mission abroad or university at home. Nevertheless, coming off of my recent experience in graduate studies in political science, I am very interested in the choices people make, and, at some point, I hope to explore the soundness of decision theoretic approaches in the social sciences, especially with respect to moral theology.

Eddie – Maryland, 24 years old, studied at Mt. St. Mary’s University (Emmitsburg)

      I was born in Baltimore, MD to Nancy and Ed McCullough. I do not have any brothers or sisters. I was raised Catholic, and sent to Catholic grade school and high school. By the end of eighth grade (ironically right around the time I was confirmed) I had fallen away from the Faith. In high school I would have considered myself an agnostic. I figured there was probably a God, but that He didn’t reveal anything or have a will. In short, He had little to do with real life.

      In high school everything appeared normal: I achieved good grades, got along well with parents and friends, and participated in extracurricular activities. Internally, the lack of meaning was starting to hurt. Though I couldn’t identify it. When I arrived to college, I took some a freshman seminar class taught by an economist named Dr. John Larrivee. He assigned Viktor Frankl, Robert Fogel, Aldous Huxley, Gregg Easterbrook, John Paul II, and Solzhenitsyn for class. In reading these texts and in discussion with Dr. Larrivee I came to understand the coherence of faith and reason and I started going to church again with my friends.
      I started studying philosophy with Dr. Michael Miller the following year and read Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, and Pieper. At this point my moral life started to align more with my beliefs and I experienced what I would call my conversion experience. Through the following two years I studied more, got into spiritual direction, started going to daily Mass, saying the Rosary and first had the thought of being a priest while studying abroad in Ireland my junior year.
      When I was a senior I was first introduced to the Dominicans by a diocesan seminarian. We were talking about the intellectual side of the faith and vocations, and he said I should check out the Dominicans. I talked to Fr. Bill Garrott OP that spring and he told me that “a hasty entrance makes a hasty exit.” He advised that I wait a little while and do something else first. So I joined the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and worked as a campus missionary for two years: first at NYU, then at Ramapo College in New Jersey. At NYU I worked with the Dominican priests running St. Joseph’s University Parish. Working day in and day out with them I realized that this way of life really might be for me.
      I am looking forward to the life of the Order and its apostolates. A life of study and preaching is what I believe I have always sought, consciously and unconsciously. The Church needs the Dominican charism in this time where challenges to faith are very real. I desire to follow Jesus Christ the Truth into the Order.

Timothy – Ohio, 24 years old, studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville
      I grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, where my parents William and Theresa remained after attending Franciscan University. Most memories of that time involve Little League baseball and swimming pools. I am the second of four children: The oldest, Andrew, lives in Phoenix with his wife, while my younger siblings, Kevin and Katie, both attend the university.
      I was enrolled in parochial schools, and stayed closely tethered to the faith by our parish youth group and a core of good friends. I followed my parents to their alma mater, where college life certainly had its richness: new friends and faces, athletics, theater, summers fishing in Alaska, a semester in Europe, reading G.K. Chesterton, and a tremendous dating relationship for 2 years.
      In November of my senior year, my relationship was ended, and I began to have thoughts and desires towards the priesthood. I first came to know the Dominicans by reading meditations in their Magnificat publication, as well as through a friend, Gregory Pine, who has since entered. That spring, I visited the House of Studies for the first time, and my affinity for them has continued to grow.
      I graduated in May 2009 with degrees in Literature and Theology. Soon after, I moved to San Diego, CA to live with friends and spend time in discernment. I quickly found employment there as a lifeguard. During my year of surf and sun, I attended Mass with Fr. John Paul Forte, OP of the Western Province, who became my spiritual director and a close friend.In June of that year I received a job offer to work as Director of Youth Ministry at a parish in Denver, CO. I soon made the move and spent the year under Fr. Michael Pavlakovich at Light of the World Catholic Church. The joys of this last year further confirmed my desire to work in ministry, while longing for the priesthood grew and grew.
      I am strongly attracted to the Dominican charism of preaching, to share the fruits of contemplation. I admire their unique position of defending orthodoxy, while staying in touch with what is contemporary. It is my hope that a novitiate year brings further confidence in a lifelong Dominican vocation.

Paul – New York, 24 years old, studied at Cooper Union (New York City)

      Although a New Yorker born and raised, my earliest and fondest memories involve camping, skiing, and swimming with my parents and older sister. From the beginning of my studies I had much to learn from my father (who recently sold his professional photography lab) and mother (who works as a school nursing supervisor). In the course of our childhood, my sister and I grew to love learning for its own sake. Given the wonderful role models in our own family, fascination and inquiry seemed (in retrospect) to have flourished almost effortlessly. It was this consuming passion for truth that eventually led me to accept the Catholic Faith in its fullness during my sophomore year of college after a substantial detour.

      It was this conviction that sustained and nourished my faith in the course of reevaluating the secular humanism that had previously framed my views. While studying Mechanical Engineering at the Cooper Union in Downtown Manhattan, I grew to know and admire the Dominican Friars who served the Campus Ministry at New York University. Speaking from the tradition of authentic humanism, St. Irenaeus wrote that the glory of God is man fully alive. It was at the University Parish of St. Joseph’s that I saw this principle in action – the glory of God in His priesthood revealed by men “fully alive” in their pursuit of God’s Truth.
      After yet another detour in the working world, I have concluded that the place for further discernment is the Dominican Novitiate. It has certainly been a long journey, but I am confident that Our Lord can bring His purpose to completion in me through my gifts (and faults) and those of my brothers in community life. May it bear the fruit befitting Our Lord and those made in His image that we may proclaim the Kingdom that has truly come among us.
Brian – Louisiana, 25 years old, studied at University of St. Thomas (Houston)
I was born in Lake Charles, LA, the first of four children. When I was growing up, my family spent a lot of time together—making road trips to visit relatives, playing sports in the yard. We also attended Mass every Sunday. The love of my parents has very much influenced my decision to enter religious life and to become a priest.
I attended Catholic schools through high school; then I enrolled at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. As a freshman I read early Christian texts: The Rule of St. Benedict, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and Life of Antony, and St. Augustine’s Confessions. These authors clearly presented the Christian message and way of life, and their works deeply touched me. I was also blessed with venerable and learned professors, many of whom were priests. During my sophomore year I first began to contemplate an entrance into religious life. In my junior and senior years I worked for Emmaus Ministries, a Christian organization based in Chicago that seeks to bring the love of Christ to male prostitutes. This work nourished in me a missionary spirit. Also, at UST, St. Thomas Aquinas was held up as a model Christian thinker. Through him, I developed an interest in The Order of Preachers.
In 2008, I enrolled at The School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. While at CUA I developed a relationship with the Dominicans who live across the street at the Dominican House of Studies. I earned a PhL from the School of Philosophy, writing on Aristotle’s theory of life. I then took a teaching job at a small Catholic school in Manchester, NH, named Holy Family Academy. There I taught students aged twelve to eighteen. I taught a variety of subjects: Philosophy, Algebra, English Literature, and Sacred Scripture. I also served as coach of the boys’ basketball team and sung in the school choir. What I most enjoyed, however, was reading the Scriptures with the ninth-graders. In becoming a Dominican preacher, I look forward to entering more deeply into the Word of God, to reading the Scriptures within the Dominican tradition and with the help of my brothers in the Order, and to preaching that Word to the world.

Lucas – Ohio, 26 years old, studied at University of Michigan

      I come from a family of five children, of which I am the second. I was born in a neighborhood adjacent to Berkeley, California, and shortly after the year of my birth, both of my parents came into the Church. My earliest memories of the Faith are of attending Mass at the Dominican parish of St. Mary Magdalene. When I was ten years old, my family moved from Berkeley to Steubenville, Ohio. This move had a transformative effect on my family’s faith, and it was in Steubenville that the Faith became an integral part of my everyday life.
      After finishing high school studies, I entered the University of Michigan School of Music, where I completed a Bachelors of Music in Piano Performance. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I experienced a vivid call to the priesthood – a call which caught me entirely by surprise. After that summer, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would apply to begin life as a seminarian.
      In 2009, I became a seminarian for the Diocese of Steubenville and entered the Pontifical College Josephinum. In the second of my two years at the Josephinum, I became interested in the Order of Preachers. After much reflection, counsel, and prayer, I began to sense that the Dominican’s call to be strengthened by community, nourished by contemplation, and driven to proclaim the Gospel answered the most urgent questions of my discernment.
      Hence, at the end of my pre-theology studies at the Josephinum, I applied to the Province of St. Joseph. I am very excited to be entering the Novitiate this July, where I will have the opportunity to offer to St. Dominic, Our Lady, and God my greatest desire, which is to share the Good News that I have been given.

Daniel – New York, 33 years old, studied at Columbia University

      Born into a loving Catholic family which would eventually be filled with 5 gifted siblings (and too many cousins to count), I grew up with the benefits of both faith and fellowship. In Catholic elementary school, I entered deeper into the liturgy as an altar boy. Through Jesuit high school (Fordham Preparatory School) and college (Fordham University), I came to understand more and more the tenets of the Faith, but it was through retreats, service, and travels – notably a semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria – that I came to truly celebrate it. There, the candles, local color, and all the artistic energy poured into Mass on holy days and on Sundays opened my eyes to the staggering richness of our Catholic Faith.     
      It wasn’t until after my graduate studies were finished and my career as a speech and language pathologist for the New York City public schools had begun that I attended my first World Youth Day. First in Cologne, Germany (2005), then in Sydney, Australia (2008), the vibrant faith of Catholic peers taught me to be opened to God’s joy, while the   intercession of the various patron saints directed me more specifically to where I was called to continue this renewal back home. Blessed Fr. Adolph Kolping (one of the patrons of WYD in Cologne) and Blessed PierGiorgio Frassati (a patron of Sydney’s WYD) opened the way to fellowship and local missions bearing their names in New York City. My involvement in the Catholic Kolping Society and eventually the Frassati Young Adult Fellowship laid bare to me my yearning for God. 
      As I followed the example of the various people involved in these groups, particularly the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Sisters of Life, and the Dominicans from the St. Joseph province – all of whom became pillars of my growing spiritual life – a calling to give my life to God’s holy priesthood became harder to ignore. Though many exemplary priests and brothers were active in my life during this initial discernment, I felt the call to follow St. Dominic, whose love for converting hearts very much beckons in this day and age. Now, built up by all these experiences, and borne up by the support and prayers of colleagues, friends, and the steadfast family that I began with, I humbly ask for the fortitude to join the ranks of the sons of St. Dominic as a witness for Christ.

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