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Members of Class of 2011 plan to enter religious life

Sam Stryker | Friday, May 20, 2011

Senior Michael Daly submitted an application to medical school, but said he did not feel at peace with the prospect of a medical career after graduation.

Instead of becoming a doctor, Daly will enter the St. Paul Seminary in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul in August.

“It was hard to surrender my whole life’s work and dream to something so unknown, mysterious, yet glorious and peace-filled,” he said. “I cannot try to be something I am not, so I must become the best version of myself.  I pulled my application from medical school because my love for Jesus was true.”

While his parents strongly influenced his faith formation, Daly said participating in an International Summer Service Learning Project (ISSLP) in India in 2008 was a “transforming experience.”

“I fell in love with the Eucharist and Christ’s mass,” he said. “Jesus was the only constant in my life, amongst all the chaos and extreme poverty and illnesses. I relied on the power and love of the Eucharist in Calcutta.”

Daly said his friends and family have been supportive of his decision, though not without some playful responses.

“I do remember some friends telling me not to be discouraged that I haven’t found a girlfriend at Notre Dame.  There are wonderful women in the real world,” he said. “I simply laughed at their misunderstanding, because it’s not about what I am giving up, but what I am gaining — love and fulfillment in the love of the Eucharist. I’ll be with Jesus, what’s better than that?”

His four years at Notre Dame were especially instrumental in the decision to follow a religious vocation.

“Notre Dame allows your vocation to be cultivated and harvested in a patient, supportive and gentle manner. I’ve visited other Catholic and non-Catholic universities and I was aware of the lack of Jesus’ presence,” he said. “There is something unique and blessed with having a chapel in almost every building. Jesus is literally everywhere in the tabernacle.”

Daly is not the only senior pursuing a vocation in religious life after graduation.

Fr. Jim Gallagher, director of the Office of Vocations for the Congregation of Holy Cross, said five seniors participated in the Old College program during their time at Notre Dame and will enter the Holy Cross Novitiate in the fall.

Two additional seniors will enter their beginning Candidate Year this fall, Gallagher said. They lived as regular students during their time at the University.

Gallagher said not all those who choose a religious path following graduation have the same academic experience during their time at Notre Dame.

“The men of Old College are the only ones who are in a specific seminary program and they take all of their classes with the general student community,” he said.  “Others who are entering after graduation have majors in a range of subjects.”

Many students began their life at Notre Dame without a plan to enter the priesthood, Gallagher said, but they started to investigate their vocation as they developed their interests.

“For those entering into a religious or priestly vocation, they will most likely participate regularly in the sacraments, they will work with a spiritual director, they will talk with a vocations director and they will take many of their questions about their future to prayer,” Gallagher said.

Senior Christopher Gautsch, who is entering the Dominican Order following graduation, said he felt a strong calling to enter the priesthood after graduation.

“I am entering religious life because I think God is calling me to do it,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I want to do it too, but it all started when I started to perceive God beckoning me towards it.”

Gautsch made his decision to enter the Dominican novitiate in February and was accepted to the Order on Easter Monday. The decision was not an immediate one for him, he said.

“I went through most of my undergraduate career before making the choice to enter religious life,” he said. “If it has been different, though, it is just that my love for theology has grown with the knowledge that I might myself be teaching and preaching the very same things one day.”

While his decision was not solely influenced by his experience at Notre Dame, Gautsch said the University’s atmosphere helped him develop his faith life.

“Even though Notre Dame is not without its problems, the community of holy friends and the emphasis on the life of faith that I found here would have been much harder, if not impossible, to find at many other schools,” he said.

Gautsch, who will spend a year in Cincinnati before beginning his seminary studies in Washington, D.C., said his friends at Notre Dame supported him as he tried to determine his vocation.

“I am blessed to have friends who want me to do what God wants me to do and would support me no matter what I discerned that to be,” he said.