The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Students discern religious vocations

Laura McCrystal | Friday, September 25, 2009

While many Notre Dame undergraduates search for internships, jobs and graduate schools, they may not be aware that several of their fellow students are discerning religious vocations.

Senior Santiago Rosado first thought about priesthood when he was in high school.

“I was sitting in Mass one day and was like, ‘Hey, I bet you could do that!'” he said. “And I thought that was so strange for a high school kid to think that I wanted to find out what was going on there, like why there was this impulse toward priesthood which isn’t pushed in society.”

Rosado and senior Britton Synder are applying to enter the Dominican Order this summer.

Snyder also felt the call to religious life while he was in high school, as he came to a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith.

“Once I understood that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ is God, I just wanted to be part of the office that brings Jesus Christ to souls in that way,” he said.

Junior Kelly Mason also hopes to join the Dominican Order as a Dominican Sister of Nashville, Tenn., after she graduates.

Mason was committed to playing soccer in high school, but suffered an injury during her junior year.

“I had to find something else to focus my attention on,” she said. “What that ended up being was Christ, so I started going to daily Mass.”

Mason considered entering religious life after senior year of high school, but chose to come to Notre Dame to play soccer. She did not end up playing soccer, but during her freshman year she also lost the desire to enter religious life.

Then in December of her sophomore year at Notre Dame, Mason felt called to pursue a religious vocation.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” she said, “but I just knew [Christ] was saying ‘I want you all for my own.’ This was the first time I knew it was something real, and it was a call of love, not just of reason.”

Like Rosado, Synder and Mason, Braydn Harsha first felt called to religious life while he was in high school. He wanted to enter a college seminary program, and he is now a sophomore and resident of Old College at Notre Dame.

The 22 current Old Collegians are discerning vocations to enter the Order of Holy Cross, but they are just as much Notre Dame students as any other undergraduate, Harsha said.

“We’re very much integrated into the campus, and we’re encouraged to have friends that are not from Old College,” he said. “It’s like a normal dorm, but we start every morning with morning prayer, then we have mass together every day. We have formation meetings and night prayer together.”

Old College juniors spend one semester abroad in Leuven, Belgium. During their senior year, they move into Moreau Seminary on campus and become official candidates for the Order of Holy Cross, Harsha said.

Harsha was attracted to Old College and Holy Cross for its sense of community as well as the structure of a college seminary program.

“You’re learning responsibility, you’re learning brotherhood, and you’re discerning a vocation along the way,” he said. “It’s just kind of one step at a time. It’s not such a big thing as some people make it out to be.”

Rosado, although not a member of Old College, said his time at Notre Dame has deepened his sense of vocation.

“I came in with sort of the vague idea of vocation, and Notre Dame has a lot of groups and opportunities to be able to express that inkling toward vocation,” he said.

Rosado said his involvement with Campus Ministry and the Center for Social Concerns, his theology classes and the close-knit community of Carroll Hall influenced his decision to pursue life in a religious community.

Snyder also said professors, friends and priests in the Notre Dame community had an impact on his decision to apply to the Dominicans.

“Notre Dame is the place where God had it all come together for me,” he said. “I would say the most important thing really has been the good friends I have made who have helped me.”

Even after deciding to pursue religious vocations, these four students will not take final religious vows for several years.

If accepted into their desired religious orders, they will go through one year of a novitiate, during which they learn how to live in religious community and discern whether they want to continue in that order, Rosado said.

If she joins the Dominican Sisters, Mason will not take her final vows until seven years after she enters the order. Likewise, Harsha, Snyder and Rosado will not be ordained as priests for several years if they continue on their current paths.

“We don’t know that we’ll be accepted or that we’ll be ultimately ordained,” Rosado said. “I know plenty of people who have gone into the seminary and been shown great things by God and been led to married life.”

Mason, Harsha, Snyder and Rosado all said they would like to teach in the future, although they are open to work however they are needed by their religious orders.

Snyder and Rosado said even though they have chosen to work toward priesthood, their current senses of vocation are not final.

“It sounds great because this is what happened, but it’s only after we reflected on our lives and struggled with a lot of different issues,” Rosado said. “And obviously it’s not over. Vocation is continuous discernment of God’s will in your life.”