St. Matthew’s in Oakville, Ont

Speaking Out: My friend the seminarian

By  Nicole Sciulli, Youth Speak News
  • September 29, 2017

We often don’t see what happens behind the scenes as seminarians turn into priests.

Seminarians spend five years in seminary: four years in residence and one year in internship. Many are placed in a church for one year to shadow a priest and work on special projects for the parish community. This is where I have had opportunities to interact with them on a personal level and create lasting friendships.

There is nothing I enjoy more than hearing a seminarian’s vocation story. Every year, a new seminarian is assigned to my home parish, St. Matthew’s in Oakville, Ont. They tell us about their childhood, what they studied in university and how some of their life trials led them to the consecrated life.

Our most recent seminarian, Greg Merkley from St. Augustine’s Seminary, was engaged twice, but broke off both, causing him to feel quite lost and trying to find a purpose in his life.

Growing up, his family was not religious. He was an atheist and led a secular life throughout university. Then, through coming back to the Church from a woman he was dating and going to an Alpha course at a local church, his life changed. He realized that not only is believing in God reasonable, but it is the true way to happiness and fulfillment. From there, God called his heart to the priesthood and this is where his journey continues.

His story resonated with me because his starting point for his faith reflects mine. I have had difficulty with my faith and struggled to find what God wills for my life, especially when I began university where others with different beliefs and ideologies challenged my beliefs. I had difficulty arguing for my faith.

This led me to feelings of darkness and doubt. It made me question how I could be strong in my faith. Merkley helped me with this when I asked him for guidance on how to reach out to God during this dark period of my life.

He acted as a wonderful guide to show me that it’s possible to work through times of doubt and trial. He taught me that God has a special purpose for all of us and that there is a deep satisfaction in being a child of God. Despite the earthly crosses we may have to bear, they are small compared to the infinite love God has for us that is just a confession or prayer away.

The year with each seminarian flies by and before we know it, July has come and they have to return to the seminary. It is a heart-breaking yet joyous time. It is sad because the community will miss them greatly, but our beloved seminarians are one step closer to becoming deacons the next year and priests after that.

I feel very blessed to have met so many seminarians who have helped me grow in my faith and been a true friend. I pray that God blesses them on their journey to consecrated life and to the parish that will receive them as priests.

(Sciulli, 19, is a third-year Professional Writing student at University of Toronto.)

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