Br. Nathan Wayne chose a path to the priesthood over college basketball dreams. Photo courtesy of Nathan Wayne

Jock picks God over game

By  Vincent Mastromatteo, Youth Speak News
  • December 12, 2014

Br. Nathan Wayne had an atypical road to the religious life.

A self-described “total jock” during his high school years in Syracuse, N.Y., he was a star player on the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team, a school renowned for its athletics, and also enjoyed football and skiing.  The now 26-year-old member of the Legion of Christ credits a few committed recruiters with leading him to where he is today, serving youth across Ontario.

With his strong Catholic upbringing and some high school experience with a Regnum Christi Christian team, Wayne contemplated some form of religious life at an early age. But more traditional careers always competed with that vision.

“I was thinking of becoming a doctor or going into business,” Wayne recalled. “My Dad has a very successful (repair and manufacturing) business called D&W Diesel and was looking towards me to step into a leadership role if I wanted to. But I felt God wanted something else for me.”

He decided that in 2007, immediately after high school, he would devote his life to God, but then found himself “running from that promise.” Wayne was at first hesitant of pursuing his vocation to the priesthood since he was “scared of leaving the life I had for an unknown future.” Yet he found his way back to his chosen path with the help of mentors from the Legion of Christ.

“The Legionary priest I had originally told I would go to visit the novitiate and decide on my vocation there, kept calling. I never answered … (one day) the house phone rang and I answered. It was Father. My mouth went to my stomach. After speaking for a few minutes, he convinced me to go down at least for a week and make a decision and get it over with. I was furious, but I promised I would go,” he said.

Wayne entered the Legion of Christ’s seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut. He first thought that priests and seminarians were misguided losers, but after only a few days there, things began to change.

“Everyone there was normal,” he said. “They had left everything to follow Christ, but were normal high school or college kids just like me. But they had something that I did not. They were happy. In the end, I cancelled my acceptance to college one week before and stayed for the novitiate.”

Wayne recently completed his novitiate at the Legion of Christ College of Humanities, also in Cheshire. Since then he has worked extensively in youth ministry, often playing basketball and football with the youth to which he ministers. Based out of the Legion of Christ’s community in Oakville, Ont., Wayne works at four secondary and elementary schools throughout the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, he runs boys clubs in four parishes across Southern Ontario.

In many ways, working with students and young people has been a key part of his personal religious formation. 

“What is most fulfilling about working with youth is seeing a young person go all in for Christ,” said Wayne. “Many are afraid or angry with God and don’t trust Him, but every once in a while, you see one of those kids open the door a little to God, and miracles happen.”

Dean Mamiit, a Grade 12 student at Toronto’s Brebeuf College School, has worked with Wayne on a number of retreats and has become familiar with his approach.

“I was really, really surprised the first time I heard about Br. Nathan’s background,” Mamitt said. “He had his eyes set on NCAA (college basketball) in the future… I commend the fact he’s chosen this path, even though it may seem hard for other people.”

Mamiit has also noticed how easily Wayne relates to young people.

“He is an athlete as well as a person of faith, (and that) is something that (youth he works with) really admire,” said Mamiit. “I remember playing football with him. The other guys would say ‘Wow, that seminarian has an arm on him.’ ”

If Wayne were to offer any advice for other young people considering some form of religious life, he would probably repeat what he heard from his spiritual advisors.

“My novice instructor told me I needed to pray hard and start giving God my best where I was, or I would never know,” Wayne said. “I was afraid, but I decided I couldn’t go home without giving this everything I had, so I did. From that moment on, I was the happiest I have ever been. Since then I have not doubted my calling to be a Legionary priest despite my weakness and failures.”

(Mastromatteo, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Brebeuf College School in Toronto.)

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