It was during college that I met the Dominican friars who staffed the campus ministry and also ran a parish. They were always ready to talk with any student or parishioner. One of the friars was Fr. Carl Schlichte OP. It was a true blessing to have him as my spiritual director during discernment. With prayer, self-reflection, and his guidance, I was able to reach the conclusion that I should start to formally discern if I had a Dominican vocation. After finishing my undergraduate studies in political science, economics, and public policy and the coursework for a master’s in philosophy (with half of the thesis written) I headed to D.C. to work as a government consultant (in the education team of the company). While in D.C., I met the friars of the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern Province), chiefly by frequenting the Dominican House of Studies. It was there that I was introduced to a friar who would be my spiritual director, Fr. John Baptist Ku OP. After having two different but very Dominican spiritual directors, I hope to one day provide this great spiritual aid to others. After finishing the master’s thesis, I took a couple of theology classes at DHS. This gave me the opportunity to come to know the Dominican life better. At the end of April, I headed to Mexico City to organize the papers of a jurist and to teach economic thought at a college. I am looking forward to using all these experiences to better serve the Order of Preachers, so that I can be a tool used by God to bring others and myself closer to Him. It would be a great joy if one day I could be able to repeat the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” Leo – Washington State, 24 years old, studied at Harvard University
I come from the small beach-side town of Indianola, WA, across the water from Seattle. I grew up with four siblings and a large number of cousins, and I am grateful for all the blessings of a large family. Our local high school gave me a good foundation, but I wanted to have an adventure for college and go to the East Coast. I attended college in Cambridge, MA and studied Classics, and then did some part time teaching in New York for a year. Last year I studied in the Master of Theological Studies program at Notre Dame, IN while deciding whether to apply to the Dominicans. I first met the Dominicans in Harvard Square, and got to know them over a period of about three years. I had felt the stirrings of a call to the priesthood in high school while volunteering as a youth group leader, and kept thinking about it all through college. I was drawn by the evangelical fervor of the Dominicans, especially the compassion that St. Dominic had for sinners. I was also attracted by the common life, chanting of the Psalms, and intellectual tradition of the Order. I’m looking forward to finding my place in the Dominican family and doing my part to build up the Church. Patrick – Pennsylvania, 25 years old, studied at University of Notre Dame
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, I am the youngest of five children. My parents raised us in a devout Catholic family, attending Mass regularly and modeling Christian discipleship in the home. I docilely received the Faith from them, but it was not until the summer after high school that I began to take on the Faith as my own. That summer, a program run by the Sisters of St. Joseph introduced me to principles that would shape my life: service, community life, prayer and the immense joy that overflows through them. Such joy sparked my faith and this grew into a roaring fire at Notre Dame. There I studied music theory/composition but soon added philosophy as a supplemental major and theology as a minor. Beginning my first year, I became active in the sacramental life through daily Mass and regular Confession and began praying the rosary every night with sweet devotion. After graduating, I served a year with NET Ministries of Ireland, running retreats for the secondary schools throughout the island. This year awoke within me a heartfelt desire for evangelization, simplicity and community. Following this experience, I returned to Notre Dame to enter their Echo Program, a ministry formation program that combines parish ministry, an M.A. in theology and community life. During my first year in Echo, I was open to the idea of priesthood but no particular form of it attracted me until I came across the Dominicans. Then, an extraordinary joy ignited within me, leading me to enter this upcoming novitiate class. So many of my desires resonated with the Order: evangelization, study, community life and the rosary. I am both excited and humbled by this prompting of the Spirit. Dave – Virginia, 25 years old, studied at University of Virginia
I was born in New York City, where my family home was on a now closed Governors’ Island Coast Guard Base. I am the youngest in my family, behind two sisters Heather and Lindsay. Being a military family, we moved a lot when I was younger and I went through a number of Catholic communities at or near military bases. At one point, as my mother was beginning a teaching career in Virginia and my father was called to be the executive officer of a cutter based in Wilmington, North Carolina, my family stopped going to Mass for a time and eventually joined a local Presbyterian congregation. The Presbyterian faith was positive, but I felt something was missing. Going through confirmation class I decided that I would not enter fully into their faith, but would wait until I was in college to be received fully into the Catholic Church. My college years did not start out as holy as I had envisioned they would in eighth grade. I made it to Mass every Sunday, but was far too caught up in the college lifestyle to make it to RCIA. My second year was when I finally realized that I needed to be building the foundations for a life worth living and the sacrament of Confirmation was necessary to do that. I enrolled in RCIA and was blessed to be catechized by two friars who formed me intellectually and spiritually. After my first confession in twelve years, and the grace of Confirmation, I was radically changed. My life was now centered on Christ, the friends I kept close were people from St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Charlottesville. The rosary became a nightly observance for me. It was during this time that I began to seriously consider that God may be calling me to a life in His service. I was eating lunch where the friars hold their office hours on campus and he asked me what I planned on doing with my life. I told him of the software company I had been interning with and how I planned on taking a full-time position with them after graduation. That’s when I heard the words that I will never forget. He looked me in the eyes and said, “That’s what you are doing with your career, I asked what you are doing with your LIFE; because I think you would be a really good priest.” About a year into my career as a software engineer those words really began to resonate with me. But at the time, I was living the life I was supposed to want. I had a great career, a car, lots of money, and good friends. I still thirsted for more. I met with the vocations director of my local diocese and decided that wasn’t for me. After watching one of my college friends make his simple profession of vows at St. Gertrude Church in Cincinnati, I decided to go on a vocations weekend with the Dominicans. After two years of prayer, study, spiritual direction, and a lot of grace, I am now able to enter the order. I realize that I have been formed in the faith through the Dominicans, I admire the great Dominican saints, I love the Dominican men and women in the United States, and I too want to give my life to God in this way. To contemplate and share with others the fruits of that contemplation. Jonathan – New York, 26 years old, studied at University of San Diego
I thank Our Savior and Our Mother for guiding my everyday and bringing me here to my novitiate year with the Province of St. Joseph. While I was born and raised in New York, I attended high school and college in California. My parents are first generation Puerto Ricans but I have to admit that my older sister and I are fairly gringo. I guess if you want to know a little something about me, it might help to know a little something of why I feel called to be a Dominican. A few weeks ago I was talking to an old theology professor who herself is Greek Orthodox. I had not seen her in years and we began to talk on all sorts of topics. One line she said really stuck with me: “If the Church does not preach on our faith, then who will?” What she meant was that social justice issues, eco-friendly ideas, political hot topics, et cetera are all well and good, but these are issues that everybody can talk about. Her point is that a priest needs to actually talk about the words in scripture and our faith in Christ; all else flows from this. All else flows from the gospel. So you want to know why I want to join the Order of Preachers? Though I could talk about that forever, it would not be any more clear than to simple say, ‘Because all else flows from the Gospel’: the sacrifice of Christ, the strength, trust and example of Our Mother, the institution of the Eucharist, the Love of Our God. But back to me for a moment. I am twenty-six years old and have studied Philosophy and Computer Science. Others have told me that it is an interesting mix but I like to say that I can philosophize about computers and sound scientific all at the same time. Though my life has been very blessed, I will be the first one to tell you of the scores of mistakes I have and continue to make. This is what draws me closer to my faith. That little pushing hand that smiles when I am happy, sits with me when I ponder in prayer at night, tells me the words to say to a friend in pain…this is the strength and faith that I want to share with others. It is said that St. Dominic could be heard crying at night, praying for the souls of others. I have always felt Our Lord asking me to respond to the graces He has placed in my life. I have worked tech in California, business in New York and overseas foreign advocacy work. In all of this I continue to feel God’s graces. I pray for the humility and simplicity to serve my Lord in whatever capacity He feels I can be useful. I am overjoyed that the rosary of Our Lady will be girded around my waist, both as sword and shield. May I continue to let go more and more as the Sprit guides me in my Dominican formation, and may God bless you in your own walk. Pax Tecum.
Ludwig – Pennsylvania, 30 years old, studied at Pennsylvania State University
I am blessed to have been born into a family who loves God. My mother says that when I was 4 years old I interrupted family prayers one night and demanded an explanation of the Our Father because I wanted to be sure I agreed with what we were saying to God! Fortunately, my patient parents explained it to me and encouraged my love for learning about the faith and many other things. At Penn State, I studied engineering and competed on the gymnastics team. I had a lot of fun in college, but there was a growing desire for something more, something deeper, that is hard to put into words.
When I opened myself up to God I experienced love that quenched my thirst. He began to re-order my life and I joined some campus ministries. Reading the Gospel, Christ’s words penetrated my heart and I desired to follow Christ like the apostles. After studying the early church fathers, I went to Mass and recognized Christ in the Eucharist. After completing RCIA in 2006, I continued to grow in a vibrant Catholic community. I learned a lot about prayer and life from our Benedictine campus priests. The summer after grad school, in 2009, I joined the Missionaries of the Eucharist on a mission walking from Maine to Philadelphia. I had a blast living in community, praying the liturgy of the hours, and sharing the Gospel. One of the group’s founders is now Br. Peter Martyr, OP, and we dropped off two of the missionaries in Cincinnati, OH to begin their novitiate with the Dominicans. The missionary work and community life resonated with me but I had no idea that I would be entering the novitiate a few years later! After traveling a lot for work for a few years, I joined the Missionaries for another walk and attended World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. I felt the Lord saying, “come follow me” and I desired to love the Church as a priest. That Fall I attended discernment events and took a theology course that helped me receive the gift of my vocation. During a Come and See weekend at the Dominican House of Studies, I strongly identified with the life of St. Dominic. I then visited a number of Dominican apostolates, enjoyed my time with the brothers, and felt I would enjoy their ministry. I said Yes to the Lord by applying to the Province of St. Joseph, and they accepted me. I am excited to follow the Lord, serve the church, and love everyone I meet in a new way by sharing the Truth that brings life with our hungry world in the Order of Preachers! Kenneth – Pennsylvania, 31 years old, studied at West Chester University of Pennsylvania
My family is a blessing. My mother and father raised me and my six siblings in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Myself (third oldest), five brothers, and one sister were all baptized Catholic as infants. Furthermore, my parents fostered a wonderful faith environment at home; it was truly a domestic church. My parents also sent me to Catholic schools through high school. After graduating college, I taught English in Taiwan for two years. When I came back to the United States, my next job was in medical sales. During this time, through God’s grace, my spiritual life started to become more mature. In addition, I started to become more active in service to my local parish as a catechist, lector, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Meanwhile, my attention became more focused on seeking our Lord’s will in my life. This desire turned into a gentle but recurring thought about the priesthood. Through the help and guidance of a local diocesan priest, along with confidence in our Blessed Mother’s intercession, I feel drawn to the Order of Preachers. A shared common life with an active-contemplative balance was the initial attraction. After learning more about the Dominican order and spending time with the friars, it seems God is calling me to the Order of Preachers. Our Lord has given me so much and in everything He deserves my gratitude. My hope is in Christ to serve as a faithful and holy Dominican friar for the province of St. Joseph. Luke – Melbourne (Australia), 33 years old, studied at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
I was born and bred in Australia, the son of Mauritian immigrants who moved to Australia in the late 1960s. Both of my parents are Catholic, although I was educated at a Protestant school before university. What was lacking in formal catechesis was made up by Holy Providence, especially in my final year of high school when one of my teachers happened to be a devout and well-formed Catholic. He taught me much more in our French classes than French, introducing me to the richness of the Church’s teachings and impressing upon me the importance of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. After school, I studied economics and statistics at the University of Melbourne and then worked for a couple of years for the Australian Government in Canberra. I returned to Melbourne to take further studies and was encouraged by my economic history professor at the time to pursue a doctorate overseas. I did so at Oxford over four years, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow for another year there after completing my degree. While living in England, I became attracted to religious life after going on a retreat one Christmas to a Benedictine monastery. I was deeply impressed by the unity of work and prayer in the lives of the monks, and saw in it far more meaning than what I saw in my own working life. The pull to religious life grew ever stronger over time as I searched for the right community for me to join. The Dominican charism, rooted as it is in contemplation and study, was the one I found most appealing. I came to learn about St Joseph’s Province through Fr Augustine Thompson O.P. of the Holy Name (Western) Province, who recommended the province to me because of its need for friars with economics training to teach at Providence College. Having previously been impressed by several books by Fr Albino Barrera O.P., it seemed indeed like the Eastern Province would provide a good fit for someone with my background. The province’s vicariate of Eastern Africa was also a major draw-card for me, given my desire to be a missionary. For the past year, I have been working for Dominican Volunteers International (DVI) in a Dominican-run parish in the slums of Manila, The Philippines. Working here as a volunteer has taught me much about the many dimensions of poverty and suffering which people experience in the Third World, but also about the power of the Gospel to transform lives and provide meaning and hope amidst suffering. In terms of my own vocation, working here has strengthened my desire to become a Dominican by showing me the blessedness of Dominican life, that there is no more noble work that one can do in life than to praise, to bless and to preach.
Justin – Maryland, 33 years old, studied at the University of Baltimore
Born in upstate New York, raised in Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland, I am the middle of seven children. I am grateful for my parent’s sacrifices, their fidelity, their wisdom, and their love. Most of all, I am grateful for the Faith, which they handed on to their children and taught us to value above all things. As well as being a family who loves the Faith (my eldest brother is a priest for the Baltimore Archdiocese), we also love music. Everyone sings or plays an instrument and our family parties always include some musical entertainment. After graduating from the University of Baltimore with a bachelor’s degree in business I played music with my sister Maggie for eight years. We were signed to RCA records, wrote and recorded albums, lived in Los Angeles and Nashville together, and toured the country. During this time I also played music for Mass and youth retreats. I enjoyed this time as a performing songwriter but after a while I knew the Lord was calling me to something more. I am also almost finished a masters in philosophy from Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD where I have worked the past two years as director of music ministry and assistant at the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education. During my time at the Mount, a place of natural beauty made even more beautiful by its dedication to our Lady who watches over it and guides its sons and daughters to her Son, I have discerned that the Lord may be calling me to serve Him as a priest. I have always desired to serve the Church. As a child I served as an altar server, then later as a liturgical musician, or retreat leader. Now I believe the Lord is calling me to serve his Church as a Dominican. This call is a mystery to me. Yet it is real and exciting. I look forward to my time in the Novitiate. Brandon – Vermont, 33 years old, studied at Georgetown University
I was born the middle of three boys in Middlesex, Vermont. We were a close, but not very religious family. Some of the features that stand out were annual trans-continental trips by train to the corners of the US and Canada, no TV, music, and lots of books. We all went to Catholic elementary school for the quality of education, not religious reasons. When I headed off to high school, I drifted away from any kind of active faith until graduate school. Throughout high school and college, I was very active in band (playing french horn) and Russian studies. In addition to several shorter study/exchange trips to Russia, I spent my last semester of high school there. I did my undergraduate work at Youngstown State University in Ohio and then came to Washington, DC to commence graduate studies in Russian History at Georgetown University. After completing an MA and starting work on my PhD, I also worked in the GU Medical School Admissions Office, rising to become Assistant Dean for Admissions my last four years. Despite all of this great success, something was still missing, something that I found in a time of great personal difficulty. Through this challenge, God invited me back, and I returned to Church and an active faith life. I was confirmed at this time and began to seriously explore the diocesan and religious priesthood. However, I was advised that since I had been away from the faith for a long time, I needed first to live in the Church for some time. Over the next several years I was engaged in several different ministries, each a challenge, but each bringing great fulfillment and confirming my desire to serve our Lord more fully: a server at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, working with the RCIA Program at Georgetown, and became involved at my local parish, St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington, VA, in several ways, including singing with one of the choirs and as a team leader for the high-school youth group. While I first met the Dominicans in passing through a friend while serving at the Basilica in Washington, DC (located directly across the street from the Dominican House of Studies), I really got to know the friars while conducting dissertation research in Russia. I started to regularly pray and attend daily Mass with the Polish Dominicans who run St. Catherine of Alexandria, the central Catholic parish in St. Petersburg. The beauty of the prayer, the reverence for the Mass, and the great joy of the friars caused me to seriously explore a vocation with them. As I continued my discernment back in the US, I saw men who are very serious about life with God and sharing that life with others and men who are supportive of each other, while continuing to push each other to excellence and holiness. I thank God for the path he has led me so far and pray that I will have the grace to continue to follow Him in this next step of entering the novitiate and on further wherever He may ultimately lead. Rodrigo – Illinois, 35 years old, studied at Duke University
I was born in the northern suburbs of Chicago, where I grew up with two older sisters and an older brother. Though I attended parochial grade school, my understanding and practice of the faith were pretty superficial and during high school consisted of little more than going to Sunday Mass. Toward the end of high school I began to think more seriously about the faith, and, by the grace of God, while in college I slowly began to take my relationship with Christ more seriously. Through prayer, study, and good friendships at the university Newman Center I came to embrace the Catholic faith in which I was raised. It was in college that I began to sense a call to the priesthood, prompted in part by friends and by a Byzantine Catholic priest I had gotten to know in the area. It’s not surprising that people wondered whether I might have a priestly vocation – I was becoming more interested in learning about the faith, even considering graduate school in theology. But at that point in my life, I had neither the interest nor the desire to become a priest. So, I did what any young man trying to avoid the priesthood does: I began dating a young woman, hoping against hope that I was imagining the call. Even when that relationship came to an end, my resistance to the vocation continued, though deep down I suspected it was real rather than imagined. Despite this continued resistance to the priesthood, I followed through with my plans for graduate study, pursuing a Master’s degree at Notre Dame and then a PhD in New Testament at Duke. Upon completing the doctorate, I was hired by the theology department at Marquette University, where I have worked since 2007. While I enjoy teaching and research, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I wasn’t where I needed to be. A friend of mine once told me the words of a priest regarding a religious vocation: “It doesn’t go away.” The sense that I was made to serve God and His Church through the priesthood hasn’t gone away, and by His grace I now happily and gratefully embrace this call. During the many years I was resisting my vocation, I often thought that if I ever did answer the call, I could see myself as a Dominican, and so the Order of Preachers was the first community I considered when my defenses finally crumbled. Over the past year or so I have been blessed with many opportunities to get to know the Order, both in the States and in Europe. My interactions with the friars have deepened my desire to become a member of the Dominican family. Many things attract me to the Order: the centrality of preaching, a life of study, the thought of St. Thomas, and the common life, especially praying the Divine Office in community. I’m very excited to begin this new phase of my life, and I hope the novitiate confirms my resolve to serve the Lord in the Order of Preachers, Deo volente.